The Active Life of Dolly of the Dailies (1914) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Episode 1: "The Perfect Truth" The day after Dolly Desmond had startled the community with the excellence of her graduation oration, Bobby North, a reporter on the local paper, suggested that it would be a good idea for her to write stories and things for his paper. Dolly was delighted with the idea, and started at once to put it into effect. She decided to write a story, which, although ostensibly fictional, should actually give a truthful picture of life about her as she saw it. After a week of hard work, which involved much burning of midnight oil and much weariness for the fair young authoress, the masterpiece was finished. The editor was delighted with it. It was published under the title, "The Perfect Truth: A Story of Real Life" and, at Dolly's request, the name of the author was omitted. On the afternoon of the publication of the story, the Ladies' Home Sewing Guild was engaged in its customary routine of languid needlework and somnolent gossip. One of the members began to read "The Perfect Truth," but stopped with a gasp of surprise, and called the attention of the other members to the article. In graphic, pitiless bits of description, the essential characteristics of each of the members of the Ladies' Guild were set forth so plainly, that there was no possibility of mistaking their several identities. Dolly had used the pen of a satirist with telling effect. The meeting of the Ladies' Guild ended in a furor of confusion. Mrs. Broome, the hostess of the afternoon, who had been particularly scored by the anonymous author, rushed to the newspaper office and demanded the name of her defamer. The editor refused to give her the desired information, but a note from Dolly on Bobby's desk made all things clear to Mrs. Broome. With the spreading of the news, the storm center shifted to Dolly's home. While indignant citizens waited on Mr. Desmond, and threatened to withdraw their accounts from his bank, the infuriated wives filled Mrs. Desmond's ears with their complaints. Dolly's father commanded her to stop the story and make a public apology, but Dolly, for the first time in her life, refused to comply with her parents' wishes. With the fifty dollars her story had brought in, she left for the city to earn her own living. We shall discover later what happened to her there.

    Episode 2: "The Ghost of Mother Eve" The first thing Dolly did after her arrival in New York was to try to find herself a job. The fifty dollars she had been paid for her story was practically all she had, and Dolly was wise enough to know that such an amount would not carry her very far in the city. At the very time that Dolly went to apply for a position on "The Comet," Mrs. Yorke, a wealthy society woman, was also on the list of applicants. But whereas Dolly merely wanted a position in order that she might feed and clothe herself, Mrs. Yorke desired a sinecure of a post wherein she might indulge her love for notoriety and scandal. As not infrequently happens, the rich and undeserving succeeded, while the poor and deserving failed. Dolly was politely turned away, while the paper agreed to publish a column from Mrs. Yorke's pen under the name of "Mother Eve." Mrs. Yorke noticed Dolly as she was leaving the newspaper office. Discovering the girl's literary ability, she invited her to lunch, and offered Dolly a position as her private secretary. Dolly, naturally enough, jumped at the offer, and entered upon her duties immediately. The main portion of her duties consisted in writing the "Mother Eve" column. Mrs. Yorke had not the remotest idea how to set about her self-appointed task. All she cared for was the money. For some days Dolly was moderately contented and happy. But one afternoon, while she was collecting news of an approaching ball in the showrooms of a fashionable modiste, she happened to encounter Mrs. Yorke. That estimable lady looked over and past and through Dolly, without the slightest trace of recognition in her face. When Dolly entered her room that evening to accomplish her nightly literary task, she fell, sprained her wrist, and promptly fainted. When Mrs. Yorke returned from a dance in the wee small hours of the next morning, she found a copy boy waiting patiently for the "Mother Eve" material. Dolly, roused from her swoon, was unable to work the typewriter on account of her wrist. So the copy boy wrote it to her dictation, while Mrs. Yorke stood by and fumed. After the boy bad left, Mrs. Yorke was highly unpleasant. Dolly, in a few crisp words, told her employer exactly what she thought of her, and informed her that hereafter she could write her own column. Then Dolly went away.

    Episode 3: "An Affair of Dress" It will he remembered that Dolly was engaged by Mrs. Yorke, a fashionable member of the smart set, to write a society column for the "Comet." Dolly furnished the brains and did the work. Mrs. Yorke received the money. After she had received a few unpleasant proofs of her employer's unreasonable selfishness, Dolly shook the dust of the Yorke mansion from her feet, and departed. In the course of her gathering of society notes, Dolly had met Minnie, a mannequin in a fashionable tailoring establishment. As luck would have it, there was a vacancy when Dolly arrived to ask Minnie about her work, and twenty-four hours after her quarrel with Mrs. Yorke, the girl was engaged at Browngrass' as a mannequin, with the princely salary of twenty-five dollars a week. Let it not be supposed that she was entirely infatuated with her position. She had come to the city to write, and write she would eventually. This was merely a makeshift, a temporary bar to keep the wolf from the door. There were other reasons too, why her situation did not satisfy her. The proprietor was kind, a little too kind, Dolly thought. One afternoon, he tried to kiss her, and she, quite naturally, slapped his face. In the midst of all her little difficulties, Dolly was not allowing herself to drift out of touch with the magazine and newspaper world. A poem sent by her to the "Jester," brought a gratifying return in the shape of a letter from the editor inquiring into her capabilities for a small editorial position. Later, the editor called, and since he was a nice sort of person, Dolly took dinner with him. In the excitement of the moment, she sailed off to the restaurant in the gown she was wearing. As it happened, the proprietor of Browngrass' came to the restaurant, saw the gown, called a policeman, and ordered him to arrest Dolly. Aid came from an unexpected quarter. Rockwell Crosby, editor of the "Comet," was sitting at the next table. He discovered that Dolly had written Mrs. Yorke's column, showed his card to the policeman, and ordered him to remove the angry proprietor. Dolly, he said, had no connection with Browngrass'. She was his star reporter. After the man had been removed and Dolly thanked Crosby for his kind lie, he told her it was the truth. She was engaged.

    Episode 4: "Putting One Over" When Miss Mindel, president of the Reform League, received a pathetic letter from certain tenants of the Union Realty Company, complaining of unsanitary living conditions and unjust rents, she wrote a sharp letter to the president of the Realty Company, threatening action in the courts unless improvements were made. James Boliver, the president, had put his company into its position of prominence, largely through his entirely unscrupulous method of dealing with any type of opposition to his plans. Briefly summing up the probable results of any action on the part of the Reform League, he decided that it must be prevented at any cost, so he decided to bribe Miss Mindel. Miss Mindel did not understand the carefully couched letter she received from Boliver, asking her to come and see him. She felt that she was getting into deep water, and decided to appeal to the newspapers, before taking any action. At the office of "The Comet," where she went first, Miss Mindel met Dolly Desmond, and with characteristic impulsiveness, told her the whole story. Dolly immediately hit on a plan, which she confided to Miss Mindel. That good lady, after some thought, consented to it. She was personally unknown to Boliver, and there seemed no reason why the plan should not succeed. In accordance with it, Dolly presented herself at the Union Realty Company's office as Miss Mindel. Mr. Boliver was very nice to her, indeed, and, finding her even more compliant than he had hoped, gave her a check for five thousand dollars, and allowed her to write him a receipt on the typewriter. Dolly made a carbon copy of the receipt, thanked Mr. Boliver, and turned to go. At the door she met Mr. Browngrass, her late employer, who happened to be one of the directors of the company. Since Browngrass recognized her immediately, there was nothing left for Dolly but flight via the fire escape. The enraged directors pursued her, but without result. She got her story in in time to go to press, and we leave Dolly glancing affectionately at the staring headlines of her "scoop."

    Episode 5: "The Chinese Fan" All newspaperdom was excited over the strange disappearance of Muriel Armstrong and each daily was doing its best to discover the missing heiress first, and thus secure for themselves one of the most sensational bits of news of the day, but no trace of her could be found, despite all efforts. The editor of the Comet ground his cigar and swore impotently and even Dolly, the star reporter, was at a loss for clues. Dolly was pondering over the matter on her way to her evening's assignment: the Chinese theater in Mott Street, where she was detailed to report the play. During the second act a little Chinese pin in the shape of a fan, which Dolly was wearing, unconscious of its significance to the Tongs, started a riot in the theater. As Dolly was escaping down the side street a huge hand protruded itself from a small door, pulled her inside, down a narrow corridor and thrust her into an ill-lighted den. How could she get out? She pounded on the door and called for assistance but all that greeted her was a chuckle and a slushing of soft footsteps down the corridor. She peered around in the gloom and suddenly a frightened bundle of humanity detached itself from the corner and a young girl fell at Dolly's feet, imploring assistance. Dolly raised her gently, looked into her face and discovered that she was Muriel Armstrong, the missing heiress. All fear of the Chinese vanished. Here was the scoop of the year. Fate helped her too, for the half-crazed opium fiend who was Muriel's guard, upset the lamp and set the place on fire. This enabled Dolly and her prize to escape and the next morning the heiress was turned over to her delighted parents.

    Episode 6: "On the Heights" Dolly's friend, Rockwell Crosby, editor of the "Comet." disagrees with the management and resigned. Dolly was disappointed at the news, but that was as nothing compared to her rage at the attitude of his successor, who was a self-confessed "hustler" and intended to make everybody on the paper "sit up and take notice." The first assignment he gave Dolly was to wander about the streets after dark until she found a story. Dolly was furious. She had made a distinct place for herself on the staff, and was accustomed to being treated with consideration. There was nothing to do but obey, so Dolly started out. To her amazement she ran across Ella Snyder, an old school friend, who was weeping bitterly. She had eloped with a young man named Oliver Allen. Oliver had brought her to a hotel, and had departed in search of a license. Having not come back for two hours Ella concluded that she had been deceived and decided to drown herself. Dolly took the girl home, told her not to be silly, and went to get Allen. She found him at the hotel bewildered at the disappearance of his bride-to-be. Dolly, convinced that his intentions were honorable, took him back with her. They found Ella had disappeared again. She left a note, saying she had resolved to die. In order to repay Dolly, Ella said she was going to jump from the highest building in town, so Dolly could make a scoop of the news. Dolly and Allen rushed to the Woolworth Building, and stopped Ella just in time. Then they repaired to the City Hall, where Ella and Allen were married. Dolly returned to the office and told the editor she had a story, but didn't intend to write it. He was wildly indignant at first, until she had calmly explained she knew perfectly what she was doing.

    Episode 7: "The End of the Umbrella" The Aqueduct Construction Company has been having a good deal of trouble with certain anarchistic elements, who, anxious to seize any cause of discontent to further the bloody revolution they hoped for, opposed the building of the great pipe which would carry fresh sparkling water to the crowded people of the great city. Finally, after the company had been worried half to death by anonymous threats, a tremendous explosion killed a couple of dozen workmen and completely wrecked the main section of the great work. Dolly Desmond, in the city office of the newspaper, heard of the catastrophe and begged the editor to allow her to investigate it. The editor, who had formed a high opinion of Dolly's character, readily consented, and Dolly set out for the scene of the disaster. As she wandered about the wrecked aqueduct, she came upon a curious umbrella handle in among several pieces of a shattered bomb. Dolly kept her find and said nothing about it to anybody. With some little difficulty, she succeeded in obtaining a position as cashier in the dining room of the little hotel near the works. She had the umbrella handle placed on a new umbrella, put it in the stand where she could keep her eye on it, and settled herself to watch. It wasn't as easy a matter to devote her entire attention to the stand as she had thought at first, for Grant, a young engineer at the works, fell madly in love with her. and insisted on talking to her at every opportunity. At last, when she was on the point of giving up in disgust, a shifty-eyed individual picked up the umbrella, started to go out with it, and then apparently remembering, looked at it, put it down and looked frightened. Dolly recognized him as "Nutty Jim," one of the lodgers in the hotel. That evening Dolly went up to his room to investigate. She had just unearthed several bombs when Nutty Jim entered and sprang at her. She fired at him, but missed. A bomb was knocked off the table and exploded. Nutty Jim was killed and Dolly severely injured. We leave her at the hospital with the anxious Grant at her side, delightedly reading her "scoop" in the Comet.

    Episode 8: "A Tight Squeeze" When the news came to the Comet office that Mr. Martinengro, the well-known Italian-American merchant and philanthropist, had been murdered, Dolly Desmond was very anxious to have the assignment. To her disgust, the managing editor gave the story to Hillary Graham, the young man Dolly had met in "Mother Eve's" house. Dolly, forced to be satisfied with a Salvation Army wedding. Hillary set off on his assignment in high spirits. He had not made much of a success of reporting yet, but he was confident that his work in this case would convince the Comet management that he was one man in a thousand. Arrived in a dingy little barroom near the scene of the crime, he announced his intention of apprehending the criminals to the interested bartender. As a result, a few minutes later, Hillary was knocked on the head and thrown into the cellar. Dolly, after finishing her report on the wedding, donned a Salvation Army uniform, and accompanied the band about town in search of more material. In the course of her wanderings, she entered the barroom, and saw a necktie on the floor which she had noticed that morning on Hillary. Creeping unobserved into the cellar, she discovered the unconscious Hillary lying on a pile of coal. As she stood in puzzled anxiety, wondering how she could possibly save the young man and herself, she was startled by a sudden rush of coal into the cellar, through the coal hole from the street. Daddy, the copy boy on the Comet, happened to be on the street above, watching the coal men at their task. Hearing a muffled cry, he stopped the men. A moment later Dolly crawled through the hole. She and Daddy rushed for the police. After Hillary had been rescued, the police entered the saloon, and arrested its occupants. A lucky chance resulted in the discovery of the Martinengro murderers. While Dolly was writing her story in the police station, the grateful Hillary proposed. Dolly was non-committal. She was afraid she wasn't quite ready to give up her adventurous life even for so successful a reporter as he was.

    Episode 9: "A Terror of the Night" Mrs. Winslow, a young widow, owned a piece of property known as "Beach House," for which the Union Realty Company were the agents. The money for the rental of the property meant a good deal to Mrs. Winslow, and when her tenants began to grow few and far between, she naturally called on her agents to inquire into the causes. President Bolivar, of the Realty Company, gravely informed her that "Beach House" was haunted. To substantiate his remarks, he showed Mrs. Winslow some newspaper clippings about the reported ghost at the house. Many complaints had been received from tenants and the property was becoming more and more impossible to rent. In short, Mr. Bolivar advised Mrs. Winslow to accept the Realty Company's very generous offer of $10,000 for the property worth $50,000. Mrs. Winslow thought that her property was worth more and went to consult her friend, Dolly Desmond, the star reporter on "The Comet." Dolly, instantly excited at the prospect of investigating a haunted house, suggested that Mrs. Winslow leave the property to her for the space of a week. Mrs. Winslow made out the necessary papers and then went to Bolivar and told him what she had done. Bolivar, an old enemy of Dolly, immediately planned a trap for her. He arrived at Beach House a little while after Dolly had made herself at home in one of the gray dreary rooms. After his first expression of pretended surprise, he began to make love to her, but the derisiveness of her answer showed plainly that his original plan was useless. So he bowed and took his leave. Dolly slept that night on a sofa in the front hall in the midst of a number of garden implements which had been stowed there for safekeeping. In the middle of the night, she was awakened by a slight noise. Looking up, a terrible sight met her eyes. A shrouded figure, clad in garments of ghastly white, was coming down the stairs toward her. Instead of shrieking and fainting, Dolly turned the hose on the advancing figure. It halted, wavered, and then ran out of the house and into the arms of Malone, who had just arrived to investigate the anonymous letter. The ghost was, of course, Bolivar, who had chosen this means of attempting to get Mrs. Winslow's property at a low price.

    Episode 10: "Dolly Plays Detective" When Mrs. Cambridge invited Dolly Desmond, and Malone, the managing editor of the Comet, to a dinner party, Malone naturally offered to take Dolly around to the Cambridge's in his car. For in the short space of time in which he had held his new office on the Comet staff, Malone had grown very fond of the clever young girl. When, on their way to the party, Dolly waved her hand to her old friend the policeman on the beat, she noticed a quick frown of displeasure on Malone's face. To tease him, she started to flirt outrageously with all the men present as soon as she arrived at the dinner, among whom was one of society's newest lions, the Count de Rochepierre. In the midst of the dinner, it was suddenly discovered that one of the ladies' necklaces was missing. She had worn it about her neck when she sat down, and it seemed absolutely inconceivable that anybody should have been able to remove it in the brilliantly-lighted room. On the following afternoon, the count called on Dolly, and begged her to accept a beautiful ring as a slight token of his esteem. Dolly, who rather enjoyed leading the count on, told him she should be delighted to wear it. Shortly after he had apparently taken his leave, Mrs. Cambridge and several ladies came to call. At Dolly's suggestion, a game of auction bridge was commenced. As they sat about the table, precisely the same thing happened as on the preceding night. Two of the ladies' necklaces vanished. The fact that Dolly had been present at both occasions when the mysterious occurrence had taken place, seemed a little significant. The ladies left hurriedly, and somewhat coolly. Left alone, Dolly decided to go and see the Count. She was led to this decision by several suspicious little incidents she had observed. In the Count's quarters, she discovered not only the missing necklaces, but absolute proof of how he had perpetrated his astonishing crimes. But even cleverer than her discovery of his method, was the way in which she inveigled the Count into playing a game of '"Forfeits" at the Cambridge's, and at the crucial moment in the game, clapped a pair of handcuffs on him and turned him over to the police.

    Episode 11: "Dolly at the Helm" When the city editor of the Comet burst into the managing editor's office and told him that his child was desperately ill with diphtheria, Malone, the managing editor, naturally told him to take as much time off as he wanted. Malone himself was feeling very badly at the time, and his resolution to take charge personally of the city editor's department was never carried out. Shortly after the city editor had left, Malone fainted at his desk. Dolly Desmond, the Comet's star reporter, found him there when she came into the room. She revived Malone from his stupor and had him taken home. In nine cases out of ten, both Malone and the city editor might well have been absent without any particular disturbance in the ordinary routine of the office. It was four o'clock on an unusually dull summer afternoon. The likelihood of anything happening seemed extremely remote. However, scarcely had Malone been taken away when things started. A terrible excursion boat catastrophe was the first. Right on its heels came the news that a great hotel was burning. In the excited chaos into which the Comet office was plunged, Dolly showed the stuff of which she was made. Her small hand seized the deserted tiller and with the quick incisive decision which was her chief characteristic, she wearied the legs of messenger boys, and kept the telephone wires hot with the dispatching of her swift Napoleanic commands. When it was all over, and the day was won, Dolly received a letter from home telling her that her father's bank was on the verge of ruin, largely as a result of the hard feeling which had been stirred up by Dolly's story, "The Perfect Truth." Poor Dolly, at her wits' end, went to Malone for advice. She took the manuscript of "The Perfect Truth" with her. Malone' s illness was a blessing in disguise for it gave him a chance to read the story, the first installment of which had had such a disastrous effect. He was amazed by its brilliance of style and theme. In a gush of unwanted enthusiasm he told Dolly that he was willing to publish the story at his own expense as a speculation. So Dolly, with her hopes once again raised, went away with the dim belief growing in her that "The Perfect Truth" might not be so bad a thing for her father as it had at first seemed.

    Episode 12: "The Last Assignment" When Dolly Desmond left the home of her youth to embark on a journalistic career in the city, she left the town in a state of furor behind her. The story called "The Perfect Truth," the first installment of which Dolly published in the town newspaper, aroused so much resentment against Dolly that the townspeople revenged themselves by withdrawing their money from her father's bank. Two or three months after Dolly went away, the bank was in such straits that suspension of payment seemed only a matter of hours. Then "The Perfect Truth" in its complete form was published as a book. It met with an immediate and startling success. Dolly attained to fame and wealth almost overnight. The echo of her success reached her native town, and people began to sit up and take notice. It was one thing to feel themselves the butt of the joke of an immature schoolgirl, and quite another to know that they had been the material from which a famous authoress had drawn her inspiration. In the midst of the excitement, Bobby, at the newspaper office, suddenly received word that Dolly was coming to town. The news was not an unmixed pleasure for Bobby. He had an evil conscience. He had been madly in love with Dolly before she left town, and believed that she cared a good deal for him. After she left, he fell in love with another girl. However, Bobby's first duty in the matter was perfectly clear. So he wrote up a headline article for his paper announcing Dolly's arrival. The town went wild with excitement. Fame was about to fall upon it again for the first time since Hank Bowers had been lynched for horse stealing many years before. All hatred and jealousy was forgotten and Dolly was welcomed by a tremendous popular demonstration. The first thing she did was to set her father's bank on its feet again, partly with the help of the money she had made and partly by the use of her extremely persuasive tongue. In the midst of the excitement, a stranger arrived in town, James Malone, the enterprising business manager of Dolly's paper. Everybody wondered who he was, and Bobby was the first to find out. For when he went to Dolly's house, with hanging head, to explain how matters stood, she told him that she was going to marry Malone. And that is how we leave Dolly with one career behind her, and another and far finer one ahead.

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