Part 1 out of 3
The prudent husbandman, after having taken from his field
all the straw that is there, rakes it over with a wooden
rake and gets as much again. The wise child, after the
lemonade jug is empty, takes the lemons from the bottom
of it and squeezes them into a still larger brew. So does
the sagacious author, after having sold his material to
the magazines and been paid for it, clap it into book-covers
and give it another squeeze. But in the present case the
author is of a nice conscience and anxious to place
responsibility where it is due. He therefore wishes to
make all proper acknowledgments to the editors of Vanity
Fair, The American Magazine, The Popular Magazine, Life,
Puck, The Century, Methuen's Annual, and all others who
are in any way implicated in the making of this book.
Oct. 1, 1915.
I SPOOF: A Thousand-Guinea Novel
II THE READING PUBLIC
III AFTERNOON ADVENTURES AT MY CLUB
l--The Anecdotes of Dr. So and So
2--The Shattered Health of Mr. Podge
3--The Amazing Travels of Mr. Yarner
4--The Spiritual Outlook of Mr. Doomer
5--The Reminiscences of Mr. Apricot
6--The Last Man Out of Europe
7--The War Mania of Mr. Jinks and Mr. Blinks
8--The Ground Floor
9--The Hallucination of Mr. Butt
IV RAM SPUDD
V ARISTOCRATIC ANECDOTES
VI EDUCATION MADE AGREEABLE
VII AN EVERY-DAY EXPERIENCE
VIII TRUTHFUL ORATORY
IX OUR LITERARY BUREAU
X SPEEDING UP BUSINESS
XI WHO IS ALSO WHO
XII PASSIONATE PARAGRAPHS
XIII WEEJEE THE PET DOG
XIV SIDELIGHTS ON THE SUPERMEN
XV THE SURVIVAL or THE FITTEST
XVI THE FIRST NEWSPAPER
XVII IN THE GOOD TIME AFTER THE WAR
I.--Spoof. A Thousand-Guinea Novel. New! Fascinating!
Readers are requested to note that this novel has taken
our special prize of a cheque for a thousand guineas.
This alone guarantees for all intelligent readers a
palpitating interest in every line of it. Among the
thousands of MSS. which reached us--many of them coming
in carts early in the morning, and moving in a dense
phalanx, indistinguishable from the Covent Garden Market
waggons; others pouring down our coal-chute during the
working hours of the day; and others again being slipped
surreptitiously into our letter-box by pale, timid girls,
scarcely more than children, after nightfall (in fact
many of them came in their night-gowns),--this manuscript
alone was the sole one--in fact the only one--to receive
the prize of a cheque of a thousand guineas. To other
competitors we may have given, inadvertently perhaps, a
bag of sovereigns or a string of pearls, but to this
story alone is awarded the first prize by the unanimous
decision of our judges.
When we say that the latter body included two members of
the Cabinet, two Lords of the Admiralty, and two bishops,
with power in case of dispute to send all the MSS. to
the Czar of Russia, our readers will breathe a sigh of
relief to learn that the decision was instant and unanimous.
Each one of them, in reply to our telegram, answered
This novel represents the last word in up-to-date fiction.
It is well known that the modern novel has got far beyond
the point of mere story-telling. The childish attempt to
INTEREST the reader has long since been abandoned by all
the best writers. They refuse to do it. The modern novel
must convey a message, or else it must paint a picture,
or remove a veil, or open a new chapter in human psychology.
Otherwise it is no good. SPOOF does all of these things.
The reader rises from its perusal perplexed, troubled,
and yet so filled with information that rising itself is
We cannot, for obvious reasons, insert the whole of the
first chapter. But the portion here presented was praised
by The Saturday Afternoon Review as giving one of the
most graphic and at the same time realistic pictures of
America ever written in fiction.
Of the characters whom our readers are to imagine seated
on the deck--on one of the many decks (all connected by
elevators)--of the Gloritania, one word may be said. Vere
de Lancy is (as the reviewers have under oath declared)
a typical young Englishman of the upper class. He is
nephew to the Duke of--, but of this fact no one on
the ship, except the captain, the purser, the steward,
and the passengers are, or is, aware.
In order entirely to conceal his identity, Vere de Lancy
is travelling under the assumed name of Lancy de Vere.
In order the better to hide the object of his journey,
Lancy de Vere (as we shall now call him, though our
readers will be able at any moment to turn his name
backwards) has given it to be understood that he is
travelling merely as a gentleman anxious to see America.
This naturally baffles all those in contact with him.
The girl at his side--but perhaps we may best let her
speak for herself.
Somehow as they sat together on the deck of the great
steamer in the afterglow of the sunken sun, listening to
the throbbing of the propeller (a rare sound which neither
of them of course had ever heard before), de Vere felt
that he must speak to her. Something of the mystery of
the girl fascinated him. What was she doing here alone
with no one but her mother and her maid, on the bosom of
the Atlantic? Why was she here? Why was she not somewhere
else? The thing puzzled, perplexed him. It would not let
him alone. It fastened upon his brain. Somehow he felt
that if he tried to drive it away, it might nip him in
In the end he spoke.
"And you, too," he said, leaning over her deck-chair,
"are going to America?"
He had suspected this ever since the boat left Liverpool.
Now at length he framed his growing conviction into words.
"Yes," she assented, and then timidly, "it is 3,213 miles
wide, is it not?"
"Yes," he said, "and 1,781 miles deep! It reaches from
the forty-ninth parallel to the Gulf of Mexico."
"Oh," cried the girl, "what a vivid picture! I seem to
"Its major axis," he went on, his voice sinking almost
to a caress, "is formed by the Rocky Mountains, which
are practically a prolongation of the Cordilleran Range.
It is drained," he continued--
"How splendid!" said the girl.
"Yes, is it not? It is drained by the Mississippi, by
the St. Lawrence, and--dare I say it?--by the Upper
Somehow his hand had found hers in the half gloaming,
but she did not check him.
"Go on," she said very simply; "I think I ought to hear
"The great central plain of the interior," he continued,
"is formed by a vast alluvial deposit carried down as
silt by the Mississippi. East of this the range of the
Alleghanies, nowhere more than eight thousand feet in
height, forms a secondary or subordinate axis from which
the watershed falls to the Atlantic."
He was speaking very quietly but earnestly. No man had
ever spoken to her like this before.
"What a wonderful picture!" she murmured half to herself,
half aloud, and half not aloud and half not to herself.
"Through the whole of it," de Vere went on, "there run
railways, most of them from east to west, though a few
run from west to east. The Pennsylvania system alone
has twenty-one thousand miles of track."
"Twenty-one thousand miles," she repeated; already she
felt her will strangely subordinate to his.
He was holding her hand firmly clasped in his and looking
into her face.
"Dare I tell you," he whispered, "how many employees it
"Yes," she gasped, unable to resist.
"A hundred and fourteen thousand," he said.
There was silence. They were both thinking. Presently
she spoke, timidly.
"Are there any cities there?"
"Cities!" he said enthusiastically, "ah, yes! let me
try to give you a word-picture of them. Vast cities--with
tall buildings, reaching to the very sky. Why, for
instance, the new Woolworth Building in New York--"
"Yes, yes," she broke in quickly, "how high is it?"
"Seven hundred and fifty feet."
The girl turned and faced him.
"Don't," she said. "I can't bear it. Some other time,
perhaps, but not now."
She had risen and was gathering up her wraps. "And you,"
she said, "why are you going to America?"
"Why?" he answered. "Because I want to see, to know, to
learn. And when I have learned and seen and known, I want
other people to see and to learn and to know. I want to
write it all down, all the vast palpitating picture of
it. Ah! if I only could--I want to see" (and here he
passed his hand through his hair as if trying to remember)
"something of the relations of labour and capital, of
the extraordinary development of industrial machinery,
of the new and intricate organisation of corporation
finance, and in particular I want to try to analyse--no
one has ever done it yet--the men who guide and drive
it all. I want to set down the psychology of the
He paused. The girl stood irresolute. She was thinking
(apparently, for if not, why stand there?).
"Perhaps," she faltered, "I could help you."
"Yes, I might." She hesitated. "I--I--come from America."
"You!" said de Vere in astonishment. "With a face and
voice like yours! It is impossible!"
The boldness of the compliment held her speechless for
"I do," she said; "my people lived just outside of Cohoes."
"They couldn't have," he said passionately.
"I shouldn't speak to you like this," the girl went on,
"but it's because I feel from what you have said that
you know and love America. And I think I can help you."
"You mean," he said, divining her idea, "that you can
help me to meet a multimillionaire?"
"Yes," she answered, still hesitating.
"You know one?"
"Yes," still hesitating, "I know ONE."
She seemed about to say more, her lips had already opened,
when suddenly the dull raucous blast of the foghorn (they
used a raucous one on this ship on purpose) cut the night
air. Wet fog rolled in about them, wetting everything.
The girl shivered.
"I must go," she said; "good night."
For a moment de Vere was about to detain her. The wild
thought leaped to his mind to ask her her name or at
least her mother's. With a powerful effort he checked
"Good night," he said.
She was gone.
Limits of space forbid the insertion of the whole of this
chapter. Its opening contains one of the most vivid
word-pictures of the inside of an American customs house
ever pictured in words. From the customs wharf de Vere
is driven in a taxi to the Belmont. Here he engages a
room; here, too, he sleeps; here also, though cautiously
at first, he eats. All this is so admirably described
that only those who have driven in a taxi to an hotel
and slept there can hope to appreciate it.
Limits of space also forbid our describing in full de
Vere's vain quest in New York of the beautiful creature
whom he had met on the steamer and whom he had lost from
sight in the aigrette department of the customs house.
A thousand times he cursed his folly in not having asked
Meanwhile no word comes from her, till suddenly,
mysteriously, unexpectedly, on the fourth day a note is
handed to de Vere by the Third Assistant Head Waiter of
the Belmont. It is addressed in a lady's hand. He tears
it open. It contains only the written words, "Call on
Mr. J. Superman Overgold. He is a multimillionaire. He
To leap into a taxi (from the third story of the Belmont)
was the work of a moment. To drive to the office of Mr.
Overgold was less. The portion of the novel which follows
is perhaps the most notable part of it. It is this part
of the chapter which the Hibbert Journal declares to be
the best piece of psychological analysis that appears in
any novel of the season. We reproduce it here.
"Exactly, exactly," said de Vere, writing rapidly in his
note-book as he sat in one of the deep leather armchairs
of the luxurious office of Mr. Overgold. "So you sometimes
feel as if the whole thing were not worth while."
"I do," said Mr. Overgold. "I can't help asking myself
what it all means. Is life, after all, merely a series
of immaterial phenomena, self-developing and based solely
on sensation and reaction, or is it something else?"
He paused for a moment to sign a cheque for $10,000 and
throw it out of the window, and then went on, speaking
still with the terse brevity of a man of business.
"Is sensation everywhere or is there perception too? On
what grounds, if any, may the hypothesis of a
self-explanatory consciousness be rejected? In how far
are we warranted in supposing that innate ideas are
inconsistent with pure materialism?"
De Vere listened, fascinated. Fortunately for himself,
he was a University man, fresh from the examination halls
of his Alma Mater. He was able to respond at once.
"I think," he said modestly, "I grasp your thought. You
mean--to what extent are we prepared to endorse Hegel's
dictum of immaterial evolution?"
"Exactly," said Mr. Overgold. "How far, if at all, do we
substantiate the Kantian hypothesis of the transcendental?"
"Precisely," said de Vere eagerly. "And for what reasons
[naming them] must we reject Spencer's theory of the
"Entirely so," continued Mr. Overgold. "And why, if at
all, does Bergsonian illusionism differ from pure
They both paused.
Mr. Overgold had risen. There was great weariness in his
"It saddens one, does it not?" he said.
He had picked up a bundle of Panama two per cent. gold
bonds and was looking at them in contempt.
"The emptiness of it all!" he muttered. He extended the
bonds to de Vere.
"Do you want them," he said, "or shall I throw them away?"
"Give them to me," said de Vere quietly; "they are not
worth the throwing."
"No, no," said Mr. Overgold, speaking half to himself,
as he replaced the bonds in his desk. "It is a burden
that I must carry alone. I have no right to ask any one
to share it. But come," he continued, "I fear I am sadly
lacking in the duties of international hospitality. I am
forgetting what I owe to Anglo-American courtesy. I am
neglecting the new obligations of our common Indo-Chinese
policy. My motor is at the door. Pray let me take you to
my house to lunch."
De Vere assented readily, telephoned to the Belmont not
to keep lunch waiting for him, and in a moment was speeding
up the magnificent Riverside Drive towards Mr. Overgold's
home. On the way Mr. Overgold pointed out various objects
of interest,--Grant's tomb, Lincoln's tomb, Edgar Allan
Poe's grave, the ticket office of the New York Subway,
and various other points of historic importance.
On arriving at the house, de Vere was ushered up a flight
of broad marble steps to a hall fitted on every side with
almost priceless objets d'art and others, ushered to the
cloak-room and out of it, butlered into the lunch-room
and footmanned to a chair.
As they entered, a lady already seated at the table turned
to meet them.
One glance was enough--plenty.
It was she--the object of de Vere's impassioned quest.
A rich lunch-gown was girdled about her with a
twelve-o'clock band of pearls.
She reached out her hand, smiling.
"Dorothea," said the multimillionaire, "this is Mr. de
Vere. Mr. de Vere--my wife."
Of this next chapter we need only say that the Blue Review
(Adults Only) declares it to be the most daring and yet
conscientious handling of the sex-problem ever attempted
and done. The fact that the Congregational Times declares
that this chapter will undermine the whole foundations
of English Society and let it fall, we pass over: we hold
certificates in writing from a great number of the Anglican
clergy, to the effect that they have carefully read the
entire novel and see nothing in it.
. . . . . . .
They stood looking at one another.
"So you didn't know," she murmured.
In a flash de Vere realised that she hadn't known that
he didn't know and knew now that he knew.
He found no words.
The situation was a tense one. Nothing but the woman's
innate tact could save it. Dorothea Overgold rose to it
with the dignity of a queen.
She turned to her husband.
"Take your soup over to the window," she said, "and eat
The millionaire took his soup to the window and sat
beneath a little palm tree, eating it.
"You didn't know," she repeated.
"No," said de Vere; "how could I?"
"And yet," she went on, "you loved me, although you didn't
know that I was married?"
"Yes," answered de Vere simply. "I loved you, in spite
"How splendid!" she said.
There was a moment's silence. Mr. Overgold had returned
to the table, the empty plate in his hand. His wife turned
to him again with the same unfailing tact.
"Take your asparagus to the billiard-room," she said,
"and eat it there."
"Does he know, too?" asked de Vere.
"Mr. Overgold?" she said carelessly. "I suppose he does.
Eh apres, mon ami?"
French? Another mystery! Where and how had she learned
it? de Vere asked himself. Not in France, certainly.
"I fear that you are very young, amico mio," Dorothea
went on carelessly. "After all, what is there wrong in
it, piccolo pochito? To a man's mind perhaps--but to a
woman, love is love."
She beckoned to the butler.
"Take Mr. Overgold a cutlet to the music-room," she
said, "and give him his gorgonzola on the inkstand in
"And now," she went on, in that caressing way which seemed
so natural to her, "don't let us think about it any more!
After all, what is is, isn't it?"
"I suppose it is," said de Vere, half convinced in spite
"Or at any rate," said Dorothea, "nothing can at the same
time both be and not be. But come," she broke off, gaily
dipping a macaroon in a glass of creme de menthe and
offering it to him with a pretty gesture of camaraderie,
"don't let's be gloomy any more. I want to take you with
me to the matinee."
"Is he coming?" asked de Vere, pointing at Mr. Overgold's
"Silly boy," laughed Dorothea. "Of course John is coming.
You surely don't want to buy the tickets yourself."
. . . . . . .
The days that followed brought a strange new life to de
Dorothea was ever at his side. At the theatre, at the
polo ground, in the park, everywhere they were together.
And with them was Mr. Overgold.
The three were always together. At times at the theatre
Dorothea and de Vere would sit downstairs and Mr. Overgold
in the gallery; at other times, de Vere and Mr. Overgold
would sit in the gallery and Dorothea downstairs; at
times one of them would sit in Row A, another in Row B,
and a third in Row C; at other times two would sit in
Row B and one in Row C; at the opera, at times, one of
the three would sit listening, the others talking, at
other times two listening and one talking, and at other
times three talking and none listening.
Thus the three formed together one of the most perplexing,
maddening triangles that ever disturbed the society of
. . . . . . .
The denouement was bound to come.
It was late at night.
De Vere was standing beside Dorothea in the brilliantly
lighted hall of the Grand Palaver Hotel, where they had
had supper. Mr. Overgold was busy for a moment at the
"Dorothea," de Vere whispered passionately, "I want to
take you away, away from all this. I want you."
She turned and looked him full in the face. Then she
put her hand in his, smiling bravely.
"I will come," she said.
"Listen," he went on, "the Gloritania sails for England
to-morrow at midnight. I have everything ready. Will you
"Yes," she answered, "I will"; and then passionately,
"Dearest, I will follow you to England, to Liverpool, to
the end of the earth."
She paused in thought a moment and then added.
"Come to the house just before midnight. William, the
second chauffeur (he is devoted to me), shall be at the
door with the third car. The fourth footman will bring
my things--I can rely on him; the fifth housemaid can
have them all ready--she would never betray me. I will
have the undergardener--the sixth--waiting at the iron
gate to let you in; he would die rather than fail me."
She paused again--then she went on.
"There is only one thing, dearest, that I want to ask.
It is not much. I hardly think you would refuse it at
such an hour. May I bring my husband with me?"
De Vere's face blanched.
"Must you?" he said.
"I think I must," said Dorothea. "You don't know how I've
grown to value, to lean upon, him. At times I have felt
as if I always wanted him to be near me; I like to feel
wherever I am--at the play, at a restaurant, anywhere
--that I can reach out and touch him. I know," she
continued, "that it's only a wild fancy and that others
would laugh at it, but you can understand, can you
not--carino caruso mio? And think, darling, in our new
life, how busy he, too, will be--making money for all of
us--in a new money market. It's just wonderful how he
A great light of renunciation lit up de Vere's face.
"Bring him," he said.
"I knew that you would say that," she murmured, "and
listen, pochito pocket-edition, may I ask one thing more,
one weeny thing? William, the second chauffeur--I think
he would fade away if I were gone--may I bring him, too?
Yes! O my darling, how can I repay you? And the second
footman, and the third housemaid--if I were gone I fear
that none of--"
"Bring them all," said de Vere half bitterly; "we will
all elope together."
And as he spoke Mr. Overgold sauntered over from the
cashier's desk, his open purse still in his hand, and
joined them. There was a dreamy look upon his face.
"I wonder," he murmured, "whether personality survives
or whether it, too, when up against the irresistible,
dissolves and resolves itself into a series of negative
De Vere's empty heart echoed the words.
Then they passed out and the night swallowed them up.
At a little before midnight on the next night, two motors
filled with muffled human beings might have been perceived,
or seen, moving noiselessly from Riverside Drive to the
steamer wharf where lay the Gloritania.
A night of intense darkness enveloped the Hudson. Outside
the inside of the dockside a dense fog wrapped the Statue
of Liberty. Beside the steamer customs officers and
deportation officials moved silently to and fro in long
black cloaks, carrying little deportation lanterns in
To these Mr. Overgold presented in silence his deportation
certificates, granting his party permission to leave the
United States under the imbecility clause of the Interstate
No objection was raised.
A few moments later the huge steamer was slipping away
in the darkness.
On its deck a little group of people, standing beside a
pile of first-class cabin luggage, directed a last sad
look through their heavy black disguise at the rapidly
vanishing shore which they could not see.
De Vere, who stood in the midst of them, clasping their
hands, thus stood and gazed his last at America.
"Spoof!" he said.
(We admit that this final panorama, weird in its midnight
mystery, and filling the mind of the reader with a sense
of something like awe, is only appended to Spoof in order
to coax him to read our forthcoming sequel, Spiff!)
II.--The Reading Public. A Book Store Study
"Wish to look about the store? Oh, oh, by all means,
sir," he said. Then as he rubbed his hands together in
an urbane fashion he directed a piercing glance at me
through his spectacles.
"You'll find some things that might interest you," he
said, "in the back of the store on the left. We have
there a series of reprints--Universal Knowledge from
Aristotle to Arthur Balfour--at seventeen cents. Or
perhaps you might like to look over the Pantheon of Dead
Authors at ten cents. Mr. Sparrow," he called, "just show
this gentleman our classical reprints--the ten-cent
With that he waved his hand to an assistant and dismissed
me from his thought.
In other words, he had divined me in a moment. There was
no use in my having bought a sage-green fedora in Broadway,
and a sporting tie done up crosswise with spots as big
as nickels. These little adornments can never hide the
soul within. I was a professor, and he knew it, or at
least, as part of his business, he could divine it on
The sales manager of the biggest book store for ten blocks
cannot be deceived in a customer. And he knew, of course,
that, as a professor, I was no good. I had come to the
store, as all professors go to book stores, just as a
wasp comes to an open jar of marmalade. He knew that I
would hang around for two hours, get in everybody's way,
and finally buy a cheap reprint of the Dialogues of Plato,
or the Prose Works of John Milton, or Locke on the Human
Understanding, or some trash of that sort.
As for real taste in literature--the ability to appreciate
at its worth a dollar-fifty novel of last month, in a
spring jacket with a tango frontispiece--I hadn't got it
and he knew it.
He despised me, of course. But it is a maxim of the book
business that a professor standing up in a corner buried
in a book looks well in a store. The real customers like
So it was that even so up-to-date a manager as Mr. Sellyer
tolerated my presence in a back corner of his store: and
so it was that I had an opportunity of noting something
of his methods with his real customers--methods so
successful, I may say, that he is rightly looked upon by
all the publishing business as one of the mainstays of
literature in America.
I had no intention of standing in the place and listening
as a spy. In fact, to tell the truth, I had become
immediately interested in a new translation of the Moral
Discourses of Epictetus. The book was very neatly printed,
quite well bound and was offered at eighteen cents; so
that for the moment I was strongly tempted to buy it,
though it seemed best to take a dip into it first.
I had hardly read more than the first three chapters when
my attention was diverted by a conversation going on in
the front of the store.
"You're quite sure it's his LATEST?" a fashionably dressed
lady was saying to Mr. Sellyer.
"Oh, yes, Mrs. Rasselyer," answered the manager. "I assure
you this is his very latest. In fact, they only came in
As he spoke, he indicated with his hand a huge pile of
books, gayly jacketed in white and blue. I could make
out the title in big gilt lettering--GOLDEN DREAMS.
"Oh, yes," repeated Mr. Sellyer. "This is Mr. Slush's
latest book. It's having a wonderful sale."
"That's all right, then," said the lady. "You see, one
sometimes gets taken in so: I came in here last week and
took two that seemed very nice, and I never noticed till
I got home that they were both old books, published, I
think, six months ago."
"Oh, dear me, Mrs. Rasselyer," said the manager in an
apologetic tone, "I'm extremely sorry. Pray let us send
for them and exchange them for you."
"Oh, it does not matter," said the lady; "of course I
didn't read them. I gave them to my maid. She probably
wouldn't know the difference, anyway."
"I suppose not," said Mr. Sellyer, with a condescending
smile. "But of course, madam," he went on, falling into
the easy chat of the fashionable bookman, "such mistakes
are bound to happen sometimes. We had a very painful case
only yesterday. One of our oldest customers came in in
a great hurry to buy books to take on the steamer, and
before we realised what he had done--selecting the books
I suppose merely by the titles, as some gentlemen are
apt to do--he had taken two of last year's books. We
wired at once to the steamer, but I'm afraid it's too
"But now, this book," said the lady, idly turning over
the leaves, "is it good? What is it about?"
"It's an extremely POWERFUL thing," said Mr. Sellyer,
"in fact, MASTERLY. The critics are saying that it's
perhaps THE most powerful book of the season. It has a--"
and here Mr. Sellyer paused, and somehow his manner
reminded me of my own when I am explaining to a university
class something that I don't know myself--"It has
a--a--POWER, so to speak--a very exceptional power; in
fact, one may say without exaggeration it is the most
POWERFUL book of the month. Indeed," he added, getting
on to easier ground, "it's having a perfectly wonderful
"You seem to have a great many of them," said the lady.
"Oh, we have to," answered the manager. "There's a
regular rush on the book. Indeed, you know it's a book
that is bound to make a sensation. In fact, in certain
quarters, they are saying that it's a book that ought
not to--" And here Mr. Sellyer's voice became so low and
ingratiating that I couldn't hear the rest of the sentence.
"Oh, really!" said Mrs. Rasselyer. "Well, I think I'll
take it then. One ought to see what these talked-of things
are about, anyway."
She had already begun to button her gloves, and to readjust
her feather boa with which she had been knocking the
Easter cards off the counter. Then she suddenly remembered
"Oh, I was forgetting," she said. "Will you send something
to the house for Mr. Rasselyer at the same time? He's
going down to Virginia for the vacation. You know the
kind of thing he likes, do you not?"
"Oh, perfectly, madam," said the manager. "Mr. Rasselyer
generally reads works of--er--I think he buys mostly
"Oh, travel and that sort of thing," said the lady.
"Precisely. I think we have here," and he pointed to the
counter on the left, "what Mr. Rasselyer wants."
He indicated a row of handsome books--"Seven Weeks in
the Sahara, seven dollars; Six Months in a Waggon,
six-fifty net; Afternoons in an Oxcart, two volumes,
four-thirty, with twenty off."
"I think he has read those," said Mrs. Rasselyer. "At
least there are a good many at home that seem like that."
"Oh, very possibly--but here, now, Among the Cannibals
of Corfu--yes, that I think he has had--Among the--that,
too, I think--but this I am certain he would like, just
in this morning--Among the Monkeys of New Guinea--ten
And with this Mr. Sellyer laid his hand on a pile of new
books, apparently as numerous as the huge pile of Golden
"Among the Monkeys," he repeated, almost caressingly.
"It seems rather expensive," said the lady.
"Oh, very much so--a most expensive book," the manager
repeated in a tone of enthusiasm. "You see, Mrs. Rasselyer,
it's the illustrations, actual photographs"--he ran the
leaves over in his fingers--"of actual monkeys, taken
with the camera--and the paper, you notice--in fact,
madam, the book costs, the mere manufacture of it, nine
dollars and ninety cents--of course we make no profit
on it. But it's a book we like to handle."
Everybody likes to be taken into the details of technical
business; and of course everybody likes to know that a
bookseller is losing money. These, I realised, were two
axioms in the methods of Mr. Sellyer.
So very naturally Mrs. Rasselyer bought Among the Monkeys,
and in another moment Mr. Sellyer was directing a clerk
to write down an address on Fifth Avenue, and was bowing
deeply as he showed the lady out of the door.
As he turned back to his counter his manner seemed much
"That Monkey book," I heard him murmur to his assistant,
"is going to be a pretty stiff proposition."
But he had no time for further speculation.
Another lady entered.
This time even to an eye less trained than Mr. Sellyer's,
the deep, expensive mourning and the pensive face proclaimed
the sentimental widow.
"Something new in fiction," repeated the manager, "yes,
madam--here's a charming thing--Golden Dreams"--he hung
lovingly on the words--"a very sweet story, singularly
sweet; in fact, madam, the critics are saying it is the
sweetest thing that Mr. Slush has done."
"Is it good?" said the lady. I began to realise that all
customers asked this.
"A charming book," said the manager. "It's a love
story--very simple and sweet, yet wonderfully charming.
Indeed, the reviews say it's the most charming book of
the month. My wife was reading it aloud only last night.
She could hardly read for tears."
"I suppose it's quite a safe book, is it?" asked the
widow. "I want it for my little daughter."
"Oh, quite safe," said Mr. Sellyer, with an almost parental
tone, "in fact, written quite in the old style, like the
dear old books of the past--quite like"--here Mr. Sellyer
paused with a certain slight haze of doubt visible in
his eye--"like Dickens and Fielding and Sterne and so
on. We sell a great many to the clergy, madam."
The lady bought Golden Dreams, received it wrapped up in
green enamelled paper, and passed out.
"Have you any good light reading for vacation time?"
called out the next customer in a loud, breezy voice--he
had the air of a stock broker starting on a holiday.
"Yes," said Mr. Sellyer, and his face almost broke into
a laugh as he answered, "here's an excellent thing--Golden
Dreams--quite the most humorous book of the season--simply
screaming--my wife was reading it aloud only yesterday.
She could hardly read for laughing."
"What's the price, one dollar? One-fifty. All right,
wrap it up." There was a clink of money on the counter,
and the customer was gone. I began to see exactly where
professors and college people who want copies of Epictetus
at 18 cents and sections of World Reprints of Literature
at 12 cents a section come in, in the book trade.
"Yes, Judge!" said the manager to the next customer, a
huge, dignified personage in a wide-awake hat, "sea
stories? Certainly. Excellent reading, no doubt, when
the brain is overcharged as yours must be. Here is the
very latest--Among the Monkeys of New Guinea, ten dollars,
reduced to four-fifty. The manufacture alone costs
six-eighty. We're selling it out. Thank you, Judge. Send
it? Yes. Good morning."
After that the customers came and went in a string. I
noticed that though the store was filled with books--ten
thousand of them, at a guess--Mr. Sellyer was apparently
only selling two. Every woman who entered went away with
Golden Dreams: every man was given a copy of the Monkeys
of New Guinea. To one lady Golden Dreams was sold as
exactly the reading for a holiday, to another as the very
book to read AFTER a holiday; another bought it as a book
for a rainy day, and a fourth as the right sort of reading
for a fine day. The Monkeys was sold as a sea story, a
land story, a story of the jungle, and a story of the
mountains, and it was put at a price corresponding to
Mr. Sellyer's estimate of the purchaser.
At last after a busy two hours, the store grew empty for
"Wilfred," said Mr. Sellyer, turning to his chief assistant,
"I am going out to lunch. Keep those two books running
as hard as you can. We'll try them for another day and
then cut them right out. And I'll drop round to Dockem
& Discount, the publishers, and make a kick about them,
and see what they'll do."
I felt that I had lingered long enough. I drew near with
the Epictetus in my hand.
"Yes, sir," said Mr. Sellyer, professional again in a
moment. "Epictetus? A charming thing. Eighteen cents.
Thank you. Perhaps we have some other things there that
might interest you. We have a few second-hand things in
the alcove there that you might care to look at. There's
an Aristotle, two volumes--a very fine thing--practically
illegible, that you might like: and a Cicero came in
yesterday--very choice--damaged by damp--and I think we
have a Machiavelli, quite exceptional--practically torn
to pieces, and the covers gone--a very rare old thing,
sir, if you're an expert."
"No, thanks," I said. And then from a curiosity that had
been growing in me and that I couldn't resist, "That
book--Golden Dreams," I said, "you seem to think it a
very wonderful work?"
Mr. Sellyer directed one of his shrewd glances at me. He
knew I didn't want to buy the book, and perhaps, like
lesser people, he had his off moments of confidence.
He shook his head.
"A bad business," he said. "The publishers have unloaded
the thing on us, and we have to do what we can. They're
stuck with it, I understand, and they look to us to help
them. They're advertising it largely and may pull it
off. Of course, there's just a chance. One can't tell.
It's just possible we may get the church people down on
it and if so we're all right. But short of that we'll
never make it. I imagine it's perfectly rotten."
"Haven't you read it?" I asked.
"Dear me, no!" said the manager. His air was that of a
milkman who is offered a glass of his own milk. "A pretty
time I'd have if I tried to READ the new books. It's
quite enough to keep track of them without that."
"But those people," I went on, deeply perplexed, "who
bought the book. Won't they be disappointed?"
Mr. Sellyer shook his head. "Oh, no," he said; "you see,
they won't READ it. They never do."
"But at any rate," I insisted, "your wife thought it a
Mr. Sellyer smiled widely.
"I am not married, sir," he said.
AFTERNOON ADVENTURES AT MY CLUB
1.--The Anecdotes of Dr. So and So
That is not really his name. I merely call him that from
his manner of talking.
His specialty is telling me short anecdotes of his
professional life from day to day.
They are told with wonderful dash and power, except for
one slight omission, which is, that you never know what
the doctor is talking about. Beyond this, his little
stories are of unsurpassed interest--but let me illustrate.
. . . . . . .
He came into the semi-silence room of the club the other
day and sat down beside me.
"Have something or other?" he said.
"No, thanks," I answered.
"Smoke anything?" he asked.
The doctor turned to me. He evidently wanted to talk.
"I've been having a rather peculiar experience," he said.
"Man came to me the other day--three or four weeks ago--and
said, 'Doctor, I feel out of sorts. I believe I've got
so and so.' 'Ah,' I said, taking a look at him, 'been
eating so and so, eh?' 'Yes,' he said. 'Very good,' I
said, 'take so and so.'
"Well, off the fellow went--I thought nothing of it--simply
wrote such and such in my note-book, such and such a
date, symptoms such and such--prescribed such and such,
and so forth, you understand?"
"Oh, yes, perfectly, doctor," I answered.
"Very good. Three days later--a ring at the bell in the
evening--my servant came to the surgery. 'Mr. So and So
is here. Very anxious to see you.' 'All right!' I went
down. There he was, with every symptom of so and so
written all over him--every symptom of it--this and this
"Awful symptoms, doctor," I said, shaking my head.
"Are they not?" he said, quite unaware that he hadn't
named any. "There he was with every symptom, heart so
and so, eyes so and so, pulse this--I looked at him right
in the eye and I said--'Do you want me to tell you the
truth?' 'Yes,' he said. 'Very good,' I answered, 'I will.
You've got so and so.' He fell back as if shot. 'So and
so!' he repeated, dazed. I went to the sideboard and
poured him out a drink of such and such. 'Drink this,'
I said. He drank it. 'Now,' I said, 'listen to what I
say: You've got so and so. There's only one chance,' I
said, 'you must limit your eating and drinking to such
and such, you must sleep such and such, avoid every form
of such and such--I'll give you a cordial, so many drops
every so long, but mind you, unless you do so and so, it
won't help you.' 'All right, very good.' Fellow promised.
Off he went."
The doctor paused a minute and then resumed:
"Would you believe it--two nights later, I saw the
fellow--after the theatre, in a restaurant--whole party
of people--big plate of so and so in front of him--quart
bottle of so and so on ice--such and such and so forth.
I stepped over to him--tapped him on the shoulder: 'See
here,' I said, 'if you won't obey my instructions, you
can't expect me to treat you.' I walked out of the place."
"And what happened to him?" I asked.
"Died," said the doctor, in a satisfied tone. "Died.
I've just been filling in the certificate: So and so,
aged such and such, died of so and so!"
"An awful disease," I murmured.
2.--The Shattered Health of Mr. Podge
"How are you, Podge?" I said, as I sat down in a leather
armchair beside him.
I only meant "How-do-you-do?" but he rolled his big eyes
sideways at me in his flabby face (it was easier than
moving his face) and he answered:
"I'm not as well to-day as I was yesterday afternoon.
Last week I was feeling pretty good part of the time,
but yesterday about four o'clock the air turned humid,
and I don't feel so well."
"Have a cigarette?" I said.
"No, thanks; I find they affect the bronchial toobes."
"Whose?" I asked.
"Mine," he answered.
"Oh, yes," I said, and I lighted one. "So you find the
weather trying," I continued cheerfully.
"Yes, it's too humid. It's up to a saturation of sixty-six.
I'm all right till it passes sixty-four. Yesterday
afternoon it was only about sixty-one, and I felt fine.
But after that it went up. I guess it must be a contraction
of the epidermis pressing on some of the sebaceous glands,
"I'm sure it is," I said. "But why don't you just sleep
it off till it's over?"
"I don't like to sleep too much," he answered. "I'm
afraid of it developing into hypersomnia. There are cases
where it's been known to grow into a sort of lethargy
that pretty well stops all brain action altogether--"
"That would be too bad," I murmured. "What do you do to
"I generally drink from half to three-quarters of a cup
of black coffee, or nearly black, every morning at from
eleven to five minutes past, so as to keep off hypersomnia.
It's the best thing, the doctor says."
"Aren't you afraid," I said, "of its keeping you awake?"
"I am," answered Podge, and a spasm passed over his big
yellow face. "I'm always afraid of insomnia. That's the
worst thing of all. The other night I went to bed about
half-past ten, or twenty-five minutes after,--I forget
which,--and I simply couldn't sleep. I couldn't. I read
a magazine story, and I still couldn't; and I read another,
and still I couldn't sleep. It scared me bad."
"Oh, pshaw," I said; "I don't think sleep matters as long
as one eats properly and has a good appetite."
He shook his head very dubiously. "I ate a plate of soup
at lunch," he said, "and I feel it still."
"You FEEL it!"
"Yes," repeated Podge, rolling his eyes sideways in a
pathetic fashion that he had, "I still feel it. I oughtn't
to have eaten it. It was some sort of a bean soup, and
of course it was full of nitrogen. I oughtn't to touch
nitrogen," he added, shaking his head.
"Not take any nitrogen?" I repeated.
"No, the doctor--both doctors--have told me that. I can
eat starches, and albumens, all right, but I have to keep
right away from all carbons and nitrogens. I've been
dieting that way for two years, except that now and again
I take a little glucose or phosphates."
"That must be a nice change," I said, cheerfully.
"It is," he answered in a grateful sort of tone.
There was a pause. I looked at his big twitching face,
and listened to the heavy wheezing of his breath, and I
felt sorry for him.
"See here, Podge," I said, "I want to give you some good
"About your health."
"Yes, yes, do," he said. Advice about his health was
right in his line. He lived on it.
"Well, then, cut out all this fool business of diet and
drugs and nitrogen. Don't bother about anything of the
sort. Forget it. Eat everything you want to, just when
you want it. Drink all you like. Smoke all you can--and
you'll feel a new man in a week."
"Say, do you think so!" he panted, his eyes filled with
a new light.
"I know it," I answered. And as I left him I shook hands
with a warm feeling about my heart of being a benefactor
to the human race.
Next day, sure enough, Podge's usual chair at the club
"Out getting some decent exercise," I thought. "Thank
Nor did he come the next day, nor the next, nor for a
"Leading a rational life at last," I thought. "Out in
the open getting a little air and sunlight, instead of
sitting here howling about his stomach."
The day after that I saw Dr. Slyder in black clothes
glide into the club in that peculiar manner of his, like
an amateur undertaker.
"Hullo, Slyder," I called to him, "you look as solemn as
if you had been to a funeral."
"I have," he said very quietly, and then added, "poor
"What about him?" I asked with sudden apprehension.
"Why, he died on Tuesday," answered the doctor. "Hadn't
you heard? Strangest case I've known in years. Came home
suddenly one day, pitched all his medicines down the
kitchen sink, ordered a couple of cases of champagne and
two hundred havanas, and had his housekeeper cook a dinner
like a Roman banquet! After being under treatment for
two years! Lived, you know, on the narrowest margin
conceivable. I told him and Silk told him--we all told
him--his only chance was to keep away from every form of
nitrogenous ultra-stimulants. I said to him often, 'Podge,
if you touch heavy carbonized food, you're lost.'"
"Dear me," I thought to myself, "there ARE such things
"It was a marvel," continued Slyder, "that we kept him
alive at all. And, of course"--here the doctor paused
to ring the bell to order two Manhattan cocktails--"as
soon as he touched alcohol he was done."
So that was the end of the valetudinarianism of Mr. Podge.
I have always considered that I killed him.
But anyway, he was a nuisance at the club.
3.--The Amazing Travels of Mr. Yarner
There was no fault to be found with Mr. Yarner till he
made his trip around the world.
It was that, I think, which disturbed his brain and
unfitted him for membership in the club.
"Well," he would say, as he sat ponderously down with
the air of a man opening an interesting conversation, "I
was just figuring it out that eleven months ago to-day
I was in Pekin."
"That's odd," I said, "I was just reckoning that eleven
days ago I was in Poughkeepsie."
"They don't call it Pekin over there," he said. "It's
"I know," I said, "it's the same way with Poughkeepsie,
they pronounce it P'Keepsie."
"The Chinese," he went on musingly, "are a strange people."
"So are the people in P'Keepsie," I added, "awfully
That kind of retort would sometimes stop him, but not
always. He was especially dangerous if he was found with
a newspaper in his hand; because that meant that some
item of foreign intelligence had gone to his brain.
Not that I should have objected to Yarner describing his
travels. Any man who has bought a ticket round the world
and paid for it, is entitled to that.
But it was his manner of discussion that I considered
Last week, for example, in an unguarded moment I fell a
victim. I had been guilty of the imprudence--I forget in
what connection--of speaking of lions. I realized at
once that I had done wrong--lions, giraffes, elephants,
rickshaws and natives of all brands, are topics to avoid
in talking with a traveller.
"Speaking of lions," began Yarner.
He was right, of course; I HAD spoken of lions.
"--I shall never forget," he went on (of course, I knew
he never would), "a rather bad scrape I got into in the
up-country of Uganda. Imagine yourself in a wild, rolling
country covered here and there with kwas along the sides
of the nullahs."
I did so.
"Well," continued Yarner, "we were sitting in our tent
one hot night--too hot to sleep--when all at once we
heard, not ten feet in front of us, the most terrific
roar that ever came from the throat of a lion."
As he said this Yarner paused to take a gulp of bubbling
whiskey and soda and looked at me so ferociously that I
Then quite suddenly his manner cooled down in the strangest
way, and his voice changed to a commonplace tone as he
"Perhaps I ought to explain that we hadn't come up to
the up-country looking for big game. In fact, we had
been down in the down country with no idea of going higher
than Mombasa. Indeed, our going even to Mombasa itself
was more or less an afterthought. Our first plan was to
strike across from Aden to Singapore. But our second
plan was to strike direct from Colombo to Karuchi--"
"And what was your THIRD plan?" I asked.
"Our third plan," said Yarner deliberately, feeling that
the talk was now getting really interesting, "let me see,
our third plan was to cut across from Socotra to
"Oh, yes," I said.
"However, all that was changed, and changed under the
strangest circumstances. We were sitting, Gallon and I,
on the piazza of the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo--you
know the Galle Face?"
"No, I do not," I said very positively.
"Very good. Well, I was sitting on the piazza watching
a snake charmer who was seated, with a boa, immediately
in front of me.
"Poor Gallon was actually within two feet of the hideous
reptile. All of a sudden the beast whirled itself into
a coil, its eyes fastened with hideous malignity on poor
Gallon, and with its head erect it emitted the most awful
hiss I have heard proceed from the mouth of any living
Here Yarner paused and took a long, hissing drink of
whiskey and soda: and then as the malignity died out of
"I should explain," he went on, very quietly, "that Gallon
was not one of our original party. We had come down to
Colombo from Mongolia, going by the Pekin Hankow and the
Nippon Yushen Keisha."
"That, I suppose, is the best way?" I said.
"Yes. And oddly enough but for the accident of Gallon
joining us, we should have gone by the Amoy, Cochin,
Singapore route, which was our first plan. In fact, but
for Gallon we should hardly have got through China at
all. The Boxer insurrection had taken place only fourteen
years before our visit, so you can imagine the awful
state of the country.
"Our meeting with Gallon was thus absolutely providential.
Looking back on it, I think it perhaps saved our lives.
We were in Mongolia (this, you understand, was before we
reached China), and had spent the night at a small Yak
about four versts from Kharbin, when all of a sudden,
just outside the miserable hut that we were in, we heard
a perfect fusillade of shots followed immediately afterwards
by one of the most blood-curdling and terrifying screams
I have ever imagined--"
"Oh, yes," I said, "and that was how you met Gallon.
Well, I must be off."
And as I happened at that very moment to be rescued by
an incoming friend, who took but little interest in lions,
and even less in Yarner, I have still to learn why the
lion howled so when it met Yarner. But surely the lion
had reason enough.
4.--The Spiritual Outlook of Mr. Doomer
One generally saw old Mr. Doomer looking gloomily out of
the windows of the library of the club. If not there, he
was to be found staring sadly into the embers of a dying
fire in a deserted sitting-room.
His gloom always appeared out of place as he was one of
the richest of the members.
But the cause of it,--as I came to know,--was that he
was perpetually concerned with thinking about the next
world. In fact he spent his whole time brooding over it.
I discovered this accidentally by happening to speak to
him of the recent death of Podge, one of our fellow
"Very sad," I said, "Podge's death."
"Ah," returned Mr. Doomer, "very shocking. He was quite
unprepared to die."
"Do you think so?" I said, "I'm awfully sorry to hear
"Quite unprepared," he answered. "I had reason to know
it as one of his executors,--everything is
confusion,--nothing signed,--no proper power of
attorney,--codicils drawn up in blank and never
witnessed,--in short, sir, no sense apparently of the
nearness of his death and of his duty to be prepared.
"I suppose," I said, "poor Podge didn't realise that he
was going to die."
"Ah, that's just it," resumed Mr. Doomer with something
like sternness, "a man OUGHT to realise it. Every man
ought to feel that at any moment,--one can't tell when,--day
or night,--he may be called upon to meet his,"--Mr.
Doomer paused here as if seeking a phrase--"to meet his
Financial Obligations, face to face. At any time, sir,
he may be hurried before the Judge,--or rather his estate
may be,--before the Judge of the probate court. It is
a solemn thought, sir. And yet when I come here I see
about me men laughing, talking, and playing billiards,
as if there would never be a day when their estate would
pass into the hands of their administrators and an account
must be given of every cent."
"But after all," I said, trying to fall in with his mood,
"death and dissolution must come to all of us."
"That's just it," he said solemnly. "They've dissolved
the tobacco people, and they've dissolved the oil people
and you can't tell whose turn it may be next."
Mr. Doomer was silent a moment and then resumed, speaking
in a tone of humility that was almost reverential.
"And yet there is a certain preparedness for death, a
certain fitness to die that we ought all to aim at. Any
man can at least think solemnly of the Inheritance Tax,
and reflect whether by a contract inter vivos drawn in
blank he may not obtain redemption; any man if he thinks
death is near may at least divest himself of his purely
speculative securities and trust himself entirely to
those gold bearing bonds of the great industrial
corporations whose value will not readily diminish or
pass away." Mr. Doomer was speaking with something like
"And yet what does one see?" he continued. "Men affected
with fatal illness and men stricken in years occupied
still with idle talk and amusements instead of reading
the financial newspapers,--and at the last carried away
with scarcely time perhaps to send for their brokers when
it is already too late."
"It is very sad," I said.
"Very," he repeated, "and saddest of all, perhaps, is
the sense of the irrevocability of death and the changes
that must come after it."
We were silent a moment.
"You think of these things a great deal, Mr. Doomer?"
"I do," he answered. "It may be that it is something in
my temperament, I suppose one would call it a sort of
spiritual mindedness. But I think of it all constantly.
Often as I stand here beside the window and see these
cars go by"--he indicated a passing street car--"I cannot
but realise that the time will come when I am no longer
a managing director and wonder whether they will keep on
trying to hold the dividend down by improving the rolling
stock or will declare profits to inflate the securities.
These mysteries beyond the grave fascinate me, sir. Death
is a mysterious thing. Who for example will take my seat
on the Exchange? What will happen to my majority control
of the power company? I shudder to think of the changes
that may happen after death in the assessment of my real
"Yes," I said, "it is all beyond our control, isn't it?"
"Quite," answered Mr. Doomer; "especially of late years
one feels that, all said and done, we are in the hands
of a Higher Power, and that the State Legislature is
after all supreme. It gives one a sense of smallness.
It makes one feel that in these days of drastic legislation
with all one's efforts the individual is lost and absorbed
in the controlling power of the state legislature. Consider
the words that are used in the text of the Income Tax
Case, Folio Two, or the text of the Trans-Missouri Freight
Decision, and think of the revelation they contain."
I left Mr. Doomer still standing beside the window, musing
on the vanity of life and on things, such as the future
control of freight rates, that lay beyond the grave.
I noticed as I left him how broken and aged he had come
to look. It seemed as if the chafings of the spirit were
wearing the body that harboured it.
It was about a month later that I learned of Mr. Doomer's
Dr. Slyder told me of it in the club one afternoon, over
two cocktails in the sitting-room.
"A beautiful bedside," he said, "one of the most edifying
that I have ever attended. I knew that Doomer was failing
and of course the time came when I had to tell him.
"'Mr. Doomer,' I said, 'all that I, all that any medical
can do for you is done; you are going to die. I have to
warn you that it is time for other ministrations than
"'Very good,' he said faintly but firmly, 'send for my
"They sent out and fetched Jarvis,--you know him I
think,--most sympathetic man and yet most business-like--he
does all the firm's business with the dying,--and we two
sat beside Doomer holding him up while he signed stock
transfers and blank certificates.
"Once he paused and turned his eyes on Jarvis. 'Read me
from the text of the State Inheritance Tax Statute,' he
said. Jarvis took the book and read aloud very quietly
and simply the part at the beginning--'Whenever and
wheresoever it shall appear,' down to the words, 'shall
be no longer a subject of judgment or appeal but shall
remain in perpetual possession.'
"Doomer listened with his eyes closed. The reading seemed
to bring him great comfort. When Jarvis ended he said
with a sign, 'That covers it. I'll put my faith in that.'
After that he was silent a moment and then said: 'I wish
I had already crossed the river. Oh, to have already
crossed the river and be safe on the other side.' We knew
what he meant. He had always planned to move over to New
Jersey. The inheritance tax is so much more liberal.
"Presently it was all done.
"'There,' I said, 'it is finished now.'
"'No,' he answered, 'there is still one thing. Doctor,
you've been very good to me. I should like to pay your
account now without it being a charge on the estate. I
will pay it as'--he paused for a moment and a fit of
coughing seized him, but by an effort of will he found
the power to say--'cash.'
"I took the account from my pocket (I had it with me,
fearing the worst), and we laid his cheque-book before
him on the bed. Jarvis thinking him too faint to write
tried to guide his hand as he filled in the sum. But he
shook his head.
"'The room is getting dim,' he said. 'I can see nothing
but the figures.'
"'Never mind,' said Jarvis,--much moved, 'that's enough.'
"'Is it four hundred and thirty?' he asked faintly.
"'Yes,' I said, and I could feel the tears rising in my
eyes, 'and fifty cents.'
"After signing the cheque his mind wandered for a moment
and he fell to talking, with his eyes closed, of the new
federal banking law, and of the prospect of the reserve
associations being able to maintain an adequate gold
"Just at the last he rallied.
"'I want,' he said in quite a firm voice, 'to do something
for both of you before I die.'
"'Yes, yes,' we said.
"'You are both interested, are you not,' he murmured,
'in City Traction?'
"'Yes, yes,' we said. We knew of course that he was the
"He looked at us faintly and tried to speak.
"'Give him a cordial,' said Jarvis. But he found his
"'The value of that stock,' he said, 'is going to take
"His voice grew faint.
"'Yes, yes,' I whispered, bending over him (there were
tears in both our eyes), 'tell me is it going up, or
"'It is going'--he murmured,--then his eyes closed--'it
"'Yes, yes,' I said, 'which?'
"'It is going'--he repeated feebly and then, quite suddenly
he fell back on the pillows and his soul passed. And we
never knew which way it was going. It was very sad. Later
on, of course, after he was dead, we knew, as everybody
knew, that it went down."
5.--The Reminiscences of Mr. Apricot
"Rather a cold day, isn't it?" I said as I entered the
The man I addressed popped his head out from behind a
newspaper and I saw it was old Mr. Apricot. So I was
sorry that I had spoken.
"Not so cold as the winter of 1866," he said, beaming
He had an egg-shaped head, bald, with some white hair
fluffed about the sides of it. He had a pink face with
large blue eyes, behind his spectacles, benevolent to
the verge of imbecility.
"Was that a cold winter?" I asked.
"Bitter cold," he said. "I have never told you, have I,
of my early experiences in life?"
"I think I have heard you mention them," I murmured, but
he had already placed a detaining hand on my sleeve. "Sit
down," he said. Then he continued: "Yes, it was a cold
winter. I was going to say that it was the coldest I
have ever experienced, but that might be an exaggeration.
But it was certainly colder than any winter that YOU have
ever seen, or that we ever have now, or are likely to
have. In fact the winters NOW are a mere nothing,"--here
Mr. Apricot looked toward the club window where the driven
snow was beating in eddies against the panes,--"simply
nothing. One doesn't feel them at all,"--here he turned
his eyes towards the glowing fire that flamed in the open
fireplace. "But when I was a boy things were very different.
I have probably never mentioned to you, have I, the
circumstances of my early life?"
He had, many times. But he had turned upon me the full
beam of his benevolent spectacles and I was too weak to
"My father," went on Mr. Apricot, settling back in his
chair and speaking with a far-away look in his eyes, "had
settled on the banks of the Wabash River--"
"Oh, yes, I know it well," I interjected.
"Not as it was THEN," said Mr. Apricot very quickly. "At
present as you, or any other thoughtless tourist sees
it, it appears a broad river pouring its vast flood in
all directions. At the time I speak of it was a mere
stream scarcely more than a few feet in circumference.
The life we led there was one of rugged isolation and of
sturdy self-reliance and effort such as it is, of course,
quite impossible for YOU, or any other member of this
club to understand,--I may give you some idea of what
I mean when I say that at that time there was no town
nearer to Pittsburgh than Chicago, or to St. Paul than
"Impossible!" I said.
Mr. Apricot seemed not to notice the interruption.
"There was no place nearer to Springfield than St. Louis,"
he went on in a peculiar singsong voice, "and there was
nothing nearer to Denver than San Francisco, nor to New
Orleans than Rio Janeiro--"
He seemed as if he would go on indefinitely.
"You were speaking of your father?" I interrupted.
"My father," said Mr. Apricot, "had settled on the banks,
both banks, of the Wabash. He was like so many other
men of his time, a disbanded soldier, a veteran--"
"Of the Mexican War or of the Civil War?" I asked.
"Exactly," answered Mr. Apricot, hardly heeding the
question,--"of the Mexican Civil War."
"Was he under Lincoln?" I asked.
"OVER Lincoln," corrected Mr. Apricot gravely. And he
added,--"It is always strange to me the way in which the
present generation regards Abraham Lincoln. To us, of
course, at the time of which I speak, Lincoln was simply
one of ourselves."
"In 1866?" I asked.
"This was 1856," said Mr. Apricot. "He came often to my
father's cabin, sitting down with us to our humble meal
of potatoes and whiskey (we lived with a simplicity which
of course you could not possibly understand), and would
spend the evening talking with my father over the
interpretation of the Constitution of the United States.
We children used to stand beside them listening open-mouthed
beside the fire in our plain leather night-gowns. I shall
never forget how I was thrilled when I first heard Lincoln
lay down his famous theory of the territorial jurisdiction
of Congress as affected by the Supreme Court decision of
1857. I was only nine years old at the time, but it
"Is it possible!" I exclaimed, "how ever could you
"Ah! my friend," said Mr. Apricot, almost sadly, "in
THOSE days the youth of the United States were EDUCATED
in the real sense of the word. We children followed the
decisions of the Supreme Court with breathless interest.
Our books were few but they were GOOD. We had nothing to
read but the law reports, the agriculture reports, the
weather bulletins and the almanacs. But we read them
carefully from cover to cover. How few boys have the
industry to do so now, and yet how many of our greatest
men were educated on practically nothing else except the
law reports and the almanacs. Franklin, Jefferson,
Jackson, Johnson,"--Mr. Apricot had relapsed into his
sing-song voice, and his eye had a sort of misty perplexity
in it as he went on,--"Harrison, Thomson, Peterson,
I thought it better to stop him.
"But you were speaking," I said, "of the winter of eighteen
"Of eighteen forty-six," corrected Mr. Apricot. "I shall
never forget it. How distinctly I remember,--I was only
a boy then, in fact a mere lad,--fighting my way to
school. The snow lay in some places as deep as ten feet"--
Mr. Apricot paused--"and in others twenty. But we made
our way to school in spite of it. No boys of to-day,--nor,
for the matter of that, even men such as you,--would
think of attempting it. But we were keen, anxious to
learn. Our school was our delight. Our teacher was our
friend. Our books were our companions. We gladly trudged
five miles to school every morning and seven miles back
at night, did chores till midnight, studied algebra by
candlelight"--here Mr. Apricot's voice had fallen into
its characteristic sing-song, and his eyes were
vacant--"rose before daylight, dressed by lamplight, fed
the hogs by lantern-light, fetched the cows by twilight--"
I thought it best to stop him.
"But you did eventually get off the farm, did you not?"
"Yes," he answered, "my opportunity presently came to me
as it came in those days to any boy of industry and
intelligence who knocked at the door of fortune till it
opened. I shall never forget how my first chance in life
came to me. A man, an entire stranger, struck no doubt
with the fact that I looked industrious and willing,
offered me a dollar to drive a load of tan bark to the
"Where was that?" I asked.
"Minneapolis, seven hundred miles. But I did it. I shall
never forget my feelings when I found myself in Minneapolis
with one dollar in my pocket and with the world all before
"What did you do?" I said.
"First," said Mr. Apricot, "I laid out seventy-five cents
for a suit of clothes (things were cheap in those days);
for fifty cents I bought an overcoat, for twenty-five I
got a hat, for ten cents a pair of boots, and with the
rest of my money I took a room for a month with a Swedish
family, paid a month's board with a German family, arranged
to have my washing done by an Irish family, and--"
"But surely, Mr. Apricot--" I began.
But at this point the young man who is generally in
attendance on old Mr. Apricot when he comes to the club,
appeared on the scene.
"I am afraid," he said to me aside as Mr. Apricot was
gathering up his newspapers and his belongings, "that my
uncle has been rather boring you with his reminiscences."
"Not at all," I said, "he's been telling me all about
his early life in his father's cabin on the Wabash--"
"I was afraid so," said the young man. "Too bad. You see
he wasn't really there at all."
"Not there!" I said.
"No. He only fancies that he was. He was brought up in
New York, and has never been west of Philadelphia. In
fact he has been very well to do all his life. But he
found that it counted against him: it hurt him in politics.
So he got into the way of talking about the Middle West
and early days there, and sometimes he forgets that he
"I see," I said.
Meantime Mr. Apricot was ready.
"Good-bye, good-bye," he said very cheerily,--"A delightful
chat. We must have another talk over old times soon. I
must tell you about my first trip over the Plains at the
time when I was surveying the line of the Union Pacific.
You who travel nowadays in your Pullman coaches and
observation cars can have no idea--"
"Come along, uncle," said the young man.
6.--The Last Man out of Europe
He came into the club and shook hands with me as if he
hadn't seen me for a year. In reality I had seen him only
eleven months ago, and hadn't thought of him since.
"How are you, Parkins?" I said in a guarded tone, for I
saw at once that there was something special in his
"Have a cig?" he said as he sat down on the edge of an
arm-chair, dangling his little boot.
Any young man who calls a cigarette a "cig" I despise.
"No, thanks," I said.
"Try one," he went on, "they're Hungarian. They're some
I managed to bring through with me out of the war zone."
As he said "war zone," his face twisted up into a sort
of scowl of self-importance.
I looked at Parkins more closely and I noticed that he
had on some sort of foolish little coat, short in the
back, and the kind of bow-tie that they wear in the
Hungarian bands of the Sixth Avenue restaurants.
Then I knew what the trouble was. He was the last man
out of Europe, that is to say, the latest last man. There
had been about fourteen others in the club that same
afternoon. In fact they were sitting all over it in
Italian suits and Viennese overcoats, striking German
matches on the soles of Dutch boots. These were the "war
zone" men and they had just got out "in the clothes they
stood up in." Naturally they hated to change.
So I knew all that this young man, Parkins, was going to
say, and all about his adventures before he began.
"Yes," he said, "we were caught right in the war zone.
By Jove, I never want to go through again what I went
With that, he sank back into the chair in the pose of a
man musing in silence over the recollection of days of
I let him muse. In fact I determined to let him muse till
he burst before I would ask him what he had been through.
I knew it, anyway.
Presently he decided to go on talking.
"We were at Izzl," he said, "in the Carpathians, Loo
Jones and I. We'd just made a walking tour from Izzl to
Fryzzl and back again."
"Why did you come back?" I asked.
"Back to Izzl," I explained, "after you'd once got to
Fryzzl. It seems unnecessary, but, never mind, go on."
"That was in July," he continued. "There wasn't a sign
of war, not a sign. We heard that Russia was beginning
to mobilize," (at this word be blew a puff from his
cigarette and then repeated "beginning to mobilize") "but
we thought nothing of it."
"Of course not," I said.
"Then we heard that Hungary was calling out the Honveds,
but we still thought nothing of it."
"Certainly not," I said.
"And then we heard--"
"Yes, I know," I said, "you heard that Italy was calling
out the Trombonari, and that Germany was calling in all
He looked at me.
"How did you know that?" he said.
"We heard it over here," I answered.
"Well," he went on, "next thing we knew we heard that
the Russians were at Fryzzl."
"Great Heavens!" I exclaimed.
"Yes, at Fryzzl, not a hundred miles away. The very
place we'd been at only two weeks before."
"Think of it!" I said. "If you'd been where you were two
weeks after you were there, or if the Russians had been
a hundred miles away from where they were, or even if
Fryzzl had been a hundred miles nearer to Izzl--"
We both shuddered.
"It was a close call," said Parkins. "However, I said to
Loo Jones, 'Loo, it's time to clear out.' And then, I
tell you, our trouble began. First of all we couldn't
get any money. We went to the bank at Izzl and tried to
get them to give us American dollars for Hungarian paper
money; we had nothing else."
"And wouldn't they?"
"Absolutely refused. They said they hadn't any."
"By George," I exclaimed. "Isn't war dreadful? What on
earth did you do?"