Part 2 out of 8
The idea of the required certificate had to be introduced to his
mind in the light of a pleasantry--the fancy of a nabob little
more advanced than the red Indians of "Fennimore Cooperr";
and it took all our talents combined to conceive a form of words
that would be acceptable on both sides. One was found,
however: Corporal John engrossed it in his undecipherable
hand, the master lent it the sanction of his name and flourish, I
slipped it into an envelope along with one of the two letters I
had ready prepared in my pocket, and as the rest of us moved
off along the boulevard to breakfast, Pinkerton was detached in
a cab and duly committed it to the post.
The breakfast was ordered at Lavenue's, where no one need be
ashamed to entertain even the master; the table was laid in the
garden; I had chosen the bill of fare myself; on the wine
question we held a council of war with the most fortunate
results; and the talk, as soon as the master laid aside his painful
English, became fast and furious. There were a few
interruptions, indeed, in the way of toasts. The master's health
had to be drunk, and he responded in a little well-turned
speech, full of neat allusions to my future and to the United
States; my health followed; and then my father's must not only
be proposed and drunk, but a full report must be despatched to
him at once by cablegram--an extravagance which was almost
the means of the master's dissolution. Choosing Corporal John
to be his confidant (on the ground, I presume, that he was
already too good an artist to be any longer an American except
in name) he summed up his amazement in one oft-repeated
formula--"C'est barbare!" Apart from these genial formalities,
we talked, talked of art, and talked of it as only artists can.
Here in the South Seas we talk schooners most of the time; in
the Quarter we talked art with the like unflagging interest, and
perhaps as much result.
Before very long, the master went away; Corporal John (who
was already a sort of young master) followed on his heels; and
the rank and file were naturally relieved by their departure. We
were now among equals; the bottle passed, the conversation
sped. I think I can still hear the Stennis brothers pour forth
their copious tirades; Dijon, my portly French fellow-student,
drop witticisms well-conditioned like himself; and another
(who was weak in foreign languages) dash hotly into the
current of talk with some "Je trove que pore oon sontimong de
delicacy, Corot ...," or some "Pour moi Corot est le plou ...,"
and then, his little raft of French foundering at once, scramble
silently to shore again. He at least could understand; but to
Pinkerton, I think the noise, the wine, the sun, the shadows of
the leaves, and the esoteric glory of being seated at a foreign
festival, made up the whole available means of entertainment.
We sat down about half past eleven; I suppose it was two
when, some point arising and some particular picture being
instanced, an adjournment to the Louvre was proposed. I paid
the score, and in a moment we were trooping down the Rue de
Renne. It was smoking hot; Paris glittered with that superficial
brilliancy which is so agreeable to the man in high spirits, and
in moods of dejection so depressing; the wine sang in my ears,
it danced and brightened in my eyes. The pictures that we saw
that afternoon, as we sped briskly and loquaciously through the
immortal galleries, appear to me, upon a retrospect, the
loveliest of all; the comments we exchanged to have touched
the highest mark of criticism, grave or gay.
It was only when we issued again from the museum that a
difference of race broke up the party. Dijon proposed an
adjournment to a cafe, there to finish the afternoon on beer; the
elder Stennis, revolted at the thought, moved for the country, a
forest if possible, and a long walk. At once the English
speakers rallied to the name of any exercise: even to me, who
have been often twitted with my sedentary habits, the thought
of country air and stillness proved invincibly attractive. It
appeared, upon investigation, we had just time to hail a cab
and catch one of the fast trains for Fontainebleau. Beyond the
clothes we stood in, all were destitute of what is called (with
dainty vagueness) personal effects; and it was earnestly
mooted, on the other side, whether we had not time to call upon
the way and pack a satchel? But the Stennis boys exclaimed
upon our effeminacy. They had come from London, it
appeared, a week before with nothing but greatcoats and tooth
-brushes. No baggage--there was the secret of existence. It
was expensive, to be sure; for every time you had to comb your
hair, a barber must be paid, and every time you changed your
linen, one shirt must be bought and another thrown away; but
anything was better (argued these young gentlemen) than to be
the slaves of haversacks. "A fellow has to get rid gradually of
all material attachments; that was manhood" (said they); "and
as long as you were bound down to anything,--house, umbrella,
or portmanteau,--you were still tethered by the umbilical cord."
Something engaging in this theory carried the most of us away.
The two Frenchmen, indeed, retired, scoffing, to their bock; and
Romney, being too poor to join the excursion on his own
resources and too proud to borrow, melted unobtrusively away.
Meanwhile the remainder of the company crowded the benches
of a cab; the horse was urged (as horses have to be) by an
appeal to the pocket of the driver; the train caught by the inside
of a minute; and in less than an hour and a half we were
breathing deep of the sweet air of the forest and stretching our
legs up the hill from Fontainebleau octroi, bound for Barbizon.
That the leading members of our party covered the distance in
fifty-one minutes and a half is (I believe) one of the historic
landmarks of the colony; but you will scarce be surprised to
learn that I was somewhat in the rear. Myner, a comparatively
philosophic Briton, kept me company in my deliberate advance;
the glory of the sun's going down, the fall of the long shadows,
the inimitable scent and the inspiration of the woods, attuned
me more and more to walk in a silence which progressively
infected my companion; and I remember that, when at last he
spoke, I was startled from a deep abstraction.
"Your father seems to be a pretty good kind of a father," said
he. "Why don't he come to see you?" I was ready with some
dozen of reasons, and had more in stock; but Myner, with that
shrewdness which made him feared and admired, suddenly
fixed me with his eye-glass and asked, "Ever press him?"
The blood came in my face. No; I had never pressed him; I had
never even encouraged him to come. I was proud of him;
proud of his handsome looks, of his kind, gentle ways, of that
bright face he could show when others were happy; proud, too
(meanly proud, if you like) of his great wealth and startling
liberalities. And yet he would have been in the way of my
Paris life, of much of which he would have disapproved. I had
feared to expose to criticism his innocent remarks on art; I had
told myself, I had even partly believed, he did not want to
come; I had been (and still am) convinced that he was sure to
be unhappy out of Muskegon; in short, I had a thousand
reasons, good and bad, not all of which could alter one iota of
the fact that I knew he only waited for my invitation.
"Thank you, Myner," said I; "you're a much better fellow than
ever I supposed. I'll write to-night."
"O, you're a pretty decent sort yourself," returned Myner, with
more than his usual flippancy of manner, but (as I was
gratefully aware) not a trace of his occasional irony of meaning.
Well, these were brave days, on which I could dwell forever.
Brave, too, were those that followed, when Pinkerton and I
walked Paris and the suburbs, viewing and pricing houses for
my new establishment, or covered ourselves with dust and
returned laden with Chinese gods and brass warming-pans
from the dealers in antiquities. I found Pinkerton well up in the
situation of these establishments as well as in the current
prices, and with quite a smattering of critical judgment; it
turned out he was investing capital in pictures and curiosities
for the States, and the superficial thoroughness of the creature
appeared in the fact, that although he would never be a
connoisseur, he was already something of an expert. The
things themselves left him as near as may be cold; but he had a
joy of his own in understanding how to buy and sell them.
In such engagements the time passed until I might very well
expect an answer from my father. Two mails followed each
other, and brought nothing. By the third I received a long and
almost incoherent letter of remorse, encouragement,
consolation, and despair. From this pitiful document, which
(with a movement of piety) I burned as soon as I had read it, I
gathered that the bubble of my father's wealth was burst, that
he was now both penniless and sick; and that I, so far from
expecting ten thousand dollars to throw away in juvenile
extravagance, must look no longer for the quarterly remittances
on which I lived. My case was hard enough; but I had sense
enough to perceive, and decency enough to do my duty. I sold
my curiosities, or rather I sent Pinkerton to sell them; and he
had previously bought and now disposed of them so wisely that
the loss was trifling. This, with what remained of my last
allowance, left me at the head of no less than five thousand
francs. Five hundred I reserved for my own immediate
necessities; the rest I mailed inside of the week to my father at
Muskegon, where they came in time to pay his funeral
The news of his death was scarcely a surprise and scarce a grief
to me. I could not conceive my father a poor man. He had led
too long a life of thoughtless and generous profusion to endure
the change; and though I grieved for myself, I was able to
rejoice that my father had been taken from the battle. I grieved,
I say, for myself; and it is probable there were at the same date
many thousands of persons grieving with less cause. I had lost
my father; I had lost the allowance; my whole fortune
(including what had been returned from Muskegon) scarce
amounted to a thousand francs; and to crown my sorrows, the
statuary contract had changed hands. The new contractor had a
son of his own, or else a nephew; and it was signified to me,
with business-like plainness, that I must find another market
for my pigs. In the meanwhile I had given up my room, and
slept on a truckle-bed in the corner of the studio, where as I
read myself to sleep at night, and when I awoke in the morning,
that now useless bulk, the Genius of Muskegon, was ever
present to my eyes. Poor stone lady! born to be enthroned
under the gilded, echoing dome of the new capitol, whither was
she now to drift? for what base purposes be ultimately broken
up, like an unseaworthy ship? and what should befall her ill-
starred artificer, standing, with his thousand francs, on the
threshold of a life so hard as that of the unbefriended sculptor?
It was a subject often and earnestly debated by myself and
Pinkerton. In his opinion, I should instantly discard my
profession. "Just drop it, here and now," he would say. "Come
back home with me, and let's throw our whole soul into
business. I have the capital; you bring the culture. Dodd &
Pinkerton--I never saw a better name for an advertisement; and
you can't think, Loudon, how much depends upon a name." On
my side, I would admit that a sculptor should possess one of
three things--capital, influence, or an energy only to be
qualified as hellish. The first two I had now lost; to the third I
never had the smallest claim; and yet I wanted the cowardice
(or perhaps it was the courage) to turn my back on my career
without a fight. I told him, besides, that however poor my
chances were in sculpture, I was convinced they were yet worse
in business, for which I equally lacked taste and aptitude. But
upon this head, he was my father over again; assured me that I
spoke in ignorance; that any intelligent and cultured person
was Bound to succeed; that I must, besides, have inherited
some of my father's fitness; and, at any rate, that I had been
regularly trained for that career in the commercial college.
"Pinkerton," I said, "can't you understand that, as long as I was
there, I never took the smallest interest in any stricken thing?
The whole affair was poison to me."
"It's not possible," he would cry; "it can't be; you couldn't live
in the midst of it and not feel the charm; with all your poetry of
soul, you couldn't help! Loudon," he would go on, "you drive
me crazy. You expect a man to be all broken up about the
sunset, and not to care a dime for a place where fortunes are
fought for and made and lost all day; or for a career that
consists in studying up life till you have it at your finger-ends,
spying out every cranny where you can get your hand in and a
dollar out, and standing there in the midst--one foot on
bankruptcy, the other on a borrowed dollar, and the whole thing
spinning round you like a mill--raking in the stamps, in spite of
fate and fortune."
To this romance of dickering I would reply with the romance
(which is also the virtue) of art: reminding him of those
examples of constancy through many tribulations, with which
the role of Apollo is illustrated; from the case of Millet, to those
of many of our friends and comrades, who had chosen this
agreeable mountain path through life, and were now bravely
clambering among rocks and brambles, penniless and hopeful.
"You will never understand it, Pinkerton," I would say. "You
look to the result, you want to see some profit of your
endeavours: that is why you could never learn to paint, if you
lived to be Methusalem. The result is always a fizzle: the eyes
of the artist are turned in; he lives for a frame of mind. Look at
Romney, now. There is the nature of the artist. He hasn't a
cent; and if you offered him to-morrow the command of an
army, or the presidentship of the United States, he wouldn't
take it, and you know he wouldn't."
"I suppose not," Pinkerton would cry, scouring his hair with
both his hands; "and I can't see why; I can't see what in fits he
would be after, not to; I don't seem to rise to these views. Of
course, it's the fault of not having had advantages in early life;
but, Loudon, I'm so miserably low that it seems to me silly.
The fact is," he might add with a smile, "I don't seem to have
the least use for a frame of mind without square meals; and you
can't get it out of my head that it's a man's duty to die rich, if he
"What for?" I asked him once.
"O, I don't know," he replied. "Why in snakes should anybody
want to be a sculptor, if you come to that? I would love to
sculp myself. But what I can't see is why you should want to
do nothing else. It seems to argue a poverty of nature."
Whether or not he ever came to understand me--and I have
been so tossed about since then that I am not very sure I
understand myself--he soon perceived that I was perfectly in
earnest; and after about ten days of argument, suddenly
dropped the subject, and announced that he was wasting
capital, and must go home at once. No doubt he should have
gone long before, and had already lingered over his intended
time for the sake of our companionship and my misfortune; but
man is so unjustly minded that the very fact, which ought to
have disarmed, only embittered my vexation. I resented his
departure in the light of a desertion; I would not say, but
doubtless I betrayed it; and something hang-dog in the man's
face and bearing led me to believe he was himself remorseful.
It is certain at least that, during the time of his preparations, we
drew sensibly apart--a circumstance that I recall with shame.
On the last day, he had me to dinner at a restaurant which he
knew I had formerly frequented, and had only forsworn of late
from considerations of economy. He seemed ill at ease; I was
myself both sorry and sulky; and the meal passed with little
"Now, Loudon," said he, with a visible effort, after the coffee
was come and our pipes lighted, "you can never understand the
gratitude and loyalty I bear you. You don't know what a boon
it is to be taken up by a man that stands on the pinnacle of
civilization; you can't think how it's refined and purified me,
how it's appealed to my spiritual nature; and I want to tell you
that I would die at your door like a dog."
I don't know what answer I tried to make, but he cut me short.
"Let me say it out!" he cried. "I revere you for your whole-
souled devotion to art; I can't rise to it, but there's a strain of
poetry in my nature, Loudon, that responds to it. I want you to
carry it out, and I mean to help you."
"Pinkerton, what nonsense is this?" I interrupted.
"Now don't get mad, Loudon; this is a plain piece of business,"
said he; "it's done every day; it's even typical. How are all
those fellows over here in Paris, Henderson, Sumner, Long?
--it's all the same story: a young man just plum full of artistic
genius on the one side, a man of business on the other who
doesn't know what to do with his dollars--"
"But, you fool, you're as poor as a rat," I cried.
"You wait till I get my irons in the fire!" returned Pinkerton.
"I'm bound to be rich; and I tell you I mean to have some of the
fun as I go along. Here's your first allowance; take it at the
hand of a friend; I'm one that holds friendship sacred as you do
yourself. It's only a hundred francs; you'll get the same every
month, and as soon as my business begins to expand we'll
increase it to something fitting. And so far from it's being a
favour, just let me handle your statuary for the American
market, and I'll call it one of the smartest strokes of business in
It took me a long time, and it had cost us both much grateful
and painful emotion, before I had finally managed to refuse his
offer and compounded for a bottle of particular wine. He
dropped the subject at last suddenly with a "Never mind; that's
all done with," nor did he again refer to the subject, though we
passed together the rest of the afternoon, and I accompanied
him, on his departure; to the doors of the waiting-room at St.
Lazare. I felt myself strangely alone; a voice told me that I had
rejected both the counsels of wisdom and the helping hand of
friendship; and as I passed through the great bright city on my
homeward way, I measured it for the first time with the eye of
IN WHICH I AM DOWN ON MY LUCK IN PARIS.
In no part of the world is starvation an agreeable business; but I
believe it is admitted there is no worse place to starve in than
this city of Paris. The appearances of life are there so
especially gay, it is so much a magnified beer-garden, the
houses are so ornate, the theatres so numerous, the very pace of
the vehicles is so brisk, that a man in any deep concern of mind
or pain of body is constantly driven in upon himself. In his
own eyes, he seems the one serious creature moving in a world
of horrible unreality; voluble people issuing from a cafe, the
queue at theatre doors, Sunday cabfuls of second-rate pleasure-
seekers, the bedizened ladies of the pavement, the show in the
jewellers' windows--all the familiar sights contributing to flout
his own unhappiness, want, and isolation. At the same time, if
he be at all after my pattern, he is perhaps supported by a
childish satisfaction: this is life at last, he may tell himself, this
is the real thing; the bladders on which I was set swimming are
now empty, my own weight depends upon the ocean; by my
own exertions I must perish or succeed; and I am now enduring
in the vivid fact, what I so much delighted to read of in the case
of Lonsteau or Lucien, Rodolphe or Schaunard.
Of the steps of my misery, I cannot tell at length. In ordinary
times what were politically called "loans" (although they were
never meant to be repaid) were matters of constant course
among the students, and many a man has partly lived on them
for years. But my misfortune befell me at an awkward
juncture. Many of my friends were gone; others were
themselves in a precarious situation. Romney (for instance)
was reduced to tramping Paris in a pair of country sabots, his
only suit of clothes so imperfect (in spite of cunningly adjusted
pins) that the authorities at the Luxembourg suggested his
withdrawal from the gallery. Dijon, too, was on a leeshore,
designing clocks and gas-brackets for a dealer; and the most he
could do was to offer me a corner of his studio where I might
work. My own studio (it will be gathered) I had by that time
lost; and in the course of my expulsion the Genius of
Muskegon was finally separated from her author. To continue
to possess a full-sized statue, a man must have a studio, a
gallery, or at least the freedom of a back garden. He cannot
carry it about with him, like a satchel, in the bottom of a cab,
nor can he cohabit in a garret, ten by fifteen, with so
momentous a companion. It was my first idea to leave her
behind at my departure. There, in her birthplace, she might
lend an inspiration, methought, to my successor. But the
proprietor, with whom I had unhappily quarrelled, seized the
occasion to be disagreeable, and called upon me to remove my
property. For a man in such straits as I now found myself, the
hire of a lorry was a consideration; and yet even that I could
have faced, if I had had anywhere to drive to after it was hired.
Hysterical laughter seized upon me as I beheld (in imagination)
myself, the waggoner, and the Genius of Muskegon, standing
in the public view of Paris, without the shadow of a
destination; perhaps driving at last to the nearest rubbish heap,
and dumping there, among the ordures of a city, the beloved
child of my invention. From these extremities I was relieved by
a seasonable offer, and I parted from the Genius of Muskegon
for thirty francs. Where she now stands, under what name she
is admired or criticised, history does not inform us; but I like to
think she may adorn the shrubbery of some suburban tea-
garden, where holiday shop-girls hang their hats upon the
mother, and their swains (by way of an approach of gallantry)
identify the winged infant with the god of love.
In a certain cabman's eating-house on the outer boulevard I got
credit for my midday meal. Supper I was supposed not to
require, sitting down nightly to the delicate table of some rich
acquaintances. This arrangement was extremely ill-considered.
My fable, credible enough at first, and so long as my clothes
were in good order, must have seemed worse than doubtful
after my coat became frayed about the edges, and my boots
began to squelch and pipe along the restaurant floors. The
allowance of one meal a day besides, though suitable enough to
the state of my finances, agreed poorly with my stomach. The
restaurant was a place I had often visited experimentally, to
taste the life of students then more unfortunate than myself; and
I had never in those days entered it without disgust, or left it
without nausea. It was strange to find myself sitting down with
avidity, rising up with satisfaction, and counting the hours that
divided me from my return to such a table. But hunger is a
great magician; and so soon as I had spent my ready cash, and
could no longer fill up on bowls of chocolate or hunks of bread,
I must depend entirely on that cabman's eating-house, and upon
certain rare, long-expected, long-remembered windfalls. Dijon
(for instance) might get paid for some of his pot-boiling work,
or else an old friend would pass through Paris; and then I
would be entertained to a meal after my own soul, and contract
a Latin Quarter loan, which would keep me in tobacco and my
morning coffee for a fortnight. It might be thought the latter
would appear the more important. It might be supposed that a
life, led so near the confines of actual famine, should have
dulled the nicety of my palate. On the contrary, the poorer a
man's diet, the more sharply is he set on dainties. The last of
my ready cash, about thirty francs, was deliberately squandered
on a single dinner; and a great part of my time when I was
alone was passed upon the details of imaginary feasts.
One gleam of hope visited me--an order for a bust from a rich
Southerner. He was free-handed, jolly of speech, merry of
countenance; kept me in good humour through the sittings, and
when they were over, carried me off with him to dinner and the
sights of Paris. I ate well; I laid on flesh; by all accounts, I
made a favourable likeness of the being, and I confess I thought
my future was assured. But when the bust was done, and I had
despatched it across the Atlantic, I could never so much as
learn of its arrival. The blow felled me; I should have lain
down and tried no stroke to right myself, had not the honour of
my country been involved. For Dijon improved the opportunity
in the European style; informing me (for the first time) of the
manners of America: how it was a den of banditti without the
smallest rudiment of law or order, and debts could be there
only collected with a shotgun. "The whole world knows it," he
would say; "you are alone, mon petit Loudon, you are alone to
be in ignorance of these facts. The judges of the Supreme
Court fought but the other day with stilettos on the bench at
Cincinnati. You should read the little book of one of my
friends: _Le Touriste dans le Far-West_; you will see it all
there in good French." At last, incensed by days of such
discussion, I undertook to prove to him the contrary, and put
the affair in the hands of my late father's lawyer. From him I
had the gratification of hearing, after a due interval, that my
debtor was dead of the yellow fever in Key West, and had left
his affairs in some confusion. I suppress his name; for though
he treated me with cruel nonchalance, it is probable he meant
to deal fairly in the end.
Soon after this a shade of change in my reception at the
cabman's eating-house marked the beginning of a new phase in
my distress. The first day, I told myself it was but fancy; the
next, I made quite sure it was a fact; the third, in mere panic I
stayed away, and went for forty-eight hours fasting. This was
an act of great unreason; for the debtor who stays away is but
the more remarked, and the boarder who misses a meal is sure
to be accused of infidelity. On the fourth day, therefore, I
returned, inwardly quaking. The proprietor looked askance
upon my entrance; the waitresses (who were his daughters)
neglected my wants and sniffed at the affected joviality of my
salutations; last and most plain, when I called for a suisse
(such as was being served to all the other diners) I was bluntly
told there were no more. It was obvious I was near the end of
my tether; one plank divided me from want, and now I felt it
tremble. I passed a sleepless night, and the first thing in the
morning took my way to Myner's studio. It was a step I had
long meditated and long refrained from; for I was scarce
intimate with the Englishman; and though I knew him to
possess plenty of money, neither his manner nor his reputation
were the least encouraging to beggars.
I found him at work on a picture, which I was able
conscientiously to praise, dressed in his usual tweeds, plain,
but pretty fresh, and standing out in disagreeable contrast to my
own withered and degraded outfit. As we talked, he continued
to shift his eyes watchfully between his handiwork and the fat
model, who sat at the far end of the studio in a state of nature,
with one arm gallantly arched above her head. My errand
would have been difficult enough under the best of
circumstances: placed between Myner, immersed in his art,
and the white, fat, naked female in a ridiculous attitude, I found
it quite impossible. Again and again I attempted to approach
the point, again and again fell back on commendations of the
picture; and it was not until the model had enjoyed an interval
of repose, during which she took the conversation in her own
hands and regaled us (in a soft, weak voice) with details as to
her husband's prosperity, her sister's lamented decline from the
paths of virtue, and the consequent wrath of her father, a
peasant of stern principles, in the vicinity of Chalons on the
Marne;--it was not, I say, until after this was over, and I had
once more cleared my throat for the attack, and once more
dropped aside into some commonplace about the picture, that
Myner himself brought me suddenly and vigorously to the
"You didn't come here to talk this rot," said he.
"No," I replied sullenly; "I came to borrow money."
He painted awhile in silence.
"I don't think we were ever very intimate?" he asked.
"Thank you," said I. "I can take my answer," and I made as if
to go, rage boiling in my heart.
"Of course you can go if you like," said Myner; "but I advise
you to stay and have it out."
"What more is there to say?" I cried. "You don't want to keep
me here for a needless humiliation?"
"Look here, Dodd, you must try and command your temper,"
said he. "This interview is of your own seeking, and not mine;
if you suppose it's not disagreeable to me, you're wrong; and if
you think I will give you money without knowing thoroughly
about your prospects, you take me for a fool. Besides," he
added, "if you come to look at it, you've got over the worst of it
by now: you have done the asking, and you have every reason
to know I mean to refuse. I hold out no false hopes, but it may
be worth your while to let me judge."
Thus--I was going to say--encouraged, I stumbled through my
story; told him I had credit at the cabman's eating-house, but
began to think it was drawing to a close; how Dijon lent me a
corner of his studio, where I tried to model ornaments, figures
for clocks, Time with the scythe, Leda and the swan,
musketeers for candlesticks, and other kickshaws, which had
never (up to that day) been honoured with the least approval.
"And your room?" asked Myner.
"O, my room is all right, I think," said I. "She is a very good
old lady, and has never even mentioned her bill."
"Because she is a very good old lady, I don't see why she
should be fined," observed Myner.
"What do you mean by that?" I cried.
"I mean this," said he. "The French give a great deal of credit
amongst themselves; they find it pays on the whole, or the
system would hardly be continued; but I can't see where WE
come in; I can't see that it's honest of us Anglo-Saxons to profit
by their easy ways, and then skip over the Channel or (as you
Yankees do) across the Atlantic."
"But I'm not proposing to skip," I objected.
"Exactly," he replied. "And shouldn't you? There's the problem.
You seem to me to have a lack of sympathy for the proprietors
of cabmen's eating-houses. By your own account you're not
getting on: the longer you stay, it'll only be the more out of the
pocket of the dear old lady at your lodgings. Now, I'll tell you
what I'll do: if you consent to go, I'll pay your passage to New
York, and your railway fare and expenses to Muskegon (if I
have the name right) where your father lived, where he must
have left friends, and where, no doubt, you'll find an opening. I
don't seek any gratitude, for of course you'll think me a beast;
but I do ask you to pay it back when you are able. At any rate,
that's all I can do. It might be different if I thought you a
genius, Dodd; but I don't, and I advise you not to."
"I think that was uncalled for, at least," said I.
"I daresay it was," he returned, with the same steadiness. "It
seemed to me pertinent; and, besides, when you ask me for
money upon no security, you treat me with the liberty of a
friend, and it's to be presumed that I can do the like. But the
point is, do you accept?"
"No, thank you," said I; "I have another string to my bow."
"All right," says Myner. "Be sure it's honest."
"Honest? honest?" I cried. "What do you mean by calling my
honesty in question?"
"I won't, if you don't like it," he replied. "You seem to think
honesty as easy as Blind Man's Buff: I don't. It's some
difference of definition."
I went straight from this irritating interview, during which
Myner had never discontinued painting, to the studio of my old
master. Only one card remained for me to play, and I was now
resolved to play it: I must drop the gentleman and the frock
-coat, and approach art in the workman's tunic.
"Tiens, this little Dodd!" cried the master; and then, as his eye
fell on my dilapidated clothing, I thought I could perceive his
countenance to darken.
I made my plea in English; for I knew, if he were vain of
anything, it was of his achievement of the island tongue.
"Master," said I, "will you take me in your studio again? but
this time as a workman."
"I sought your fazer was immensely reech," said he.
I explained to him that I was now an orphan and penniless.
He shook his head. "I have betterr workmen waiting at my
door," said he, "far betterr workmen.
"You used to think something of my work, sir," I pleaded.
"Somesing, somesing--yes!" he cried; "enough for a son of a
reech man--not enough for an orphan. Besides, I sought you
might learn to be an artist; I did not sink you might learn to be
On a certain bench on the outer boulevard, not far from the
tomb of Napoleon, a bench shaded at that date by a shabby
tree, and commanding a view of muddy roadway and blank
wall, I sat down to wrestle with my misery. The weather was
cheerless and dark; in three days I had eaten but once; I had no
tobacco; my shoes were soaked, my trousers horrid with mire;
my humour and all the circumstances of the time and place
lugubriously attuned. Here were two men who had both
spoken fairly of my work while I was rich and wanted nothing;
now that I was poor and lacked all: "no genius," said the one;
"not enough for an orphan," the other; and the first offered me
my passage like a pauper immigrant, and the second refused
me a day's wage as a hewer of stone--plain dealing for an
empty belly. They had not been insincere in the past; they were
not insincere to-day: change of circumstance had introduced a
new criterion: that was all.
But if I acquitted my two Job's comforters of insincerity, I was
yet far from admitting them infallible. Artists had been
contemned before, and had lived to turn the laugh on their
contemners. How old was Corot before he struck the vein of
his own precious metal? When had a young man been more
derided (or more justly so) than the god of my admiration,
Balzac? Or if I required a bolder inspiration, what had I to do
but turn my head to where the gold dome of the Invalides
glittered against inky squalls, and recall the tale of him
sleeping there: from the day when a young artillery-sub could
be giggled at and nicknamed Puss-in-Boots by frisky misses;
on to the days of so many crowns and so many victories, and so
many hundred mouths of cannon, and so many thousand war-
hoofs trampling the roadways of astonished Europe eighty
miles in front of the grand army? To go back, to give up, to
proclaim myself a failure, an ambitious failure, first a rocket,
then a stick! I, Loudon Dodd, who had refused all other
livelihoods with scorn, and been advertised in the Saint Joseph
_Sunday Herald_ as a patriot and an artist, to be returned upon
my native Muskegon like damaged goods, and go the circuit of
my father's acquaintance, cap in hand, and begging to sweep
offices! No, by Napoleon! I would die at my chosen trade; and
the two who had that day flouted me should live to envy my
success, or to weep tears of unavailing penitence behind my
Meantime, if my courage was still undiminished, I was none
the nearer to a meal. At no great distance my cabman's eating-
house stood, at the tail of a muddy cab-rank, on the shores of a
wide thoroughfare of mud, offering (to fancy) a face of
ambiguous invitation. I might be received, I might once more
fill my belly there; on the other hand, it was perhaps this day
the bolt was destined to fall, and I might be expelled instead,
with vulgar hubbub. It was policy to make the attempt, and I
knew it was policy; but I had already, in the course of that one
morning, endured too many affronts, and I felt I could rather
starve than face another. I had courage and to spare for the
future, none left for that day; courage for the main campaign,
but not a spark of it for that preliminary skirmish of the
cabman's restaurant. I continued accordingly to sit upon my
bench, not far from the ashes of Napoleon, now drowsy, now
light-headed, now in complete mental obstruction, or only
conscious of an animal pleasure in quiescence; and now
thinking, planning, and remembering with unexampled
clearness, telling myself tales of sudden wealth, and gustfully
ordering and greedily consuming imaginary meals: in the
course of which I must have dropped asleep.
It was towards dark that I was suddenly recalled to famine by a
cold souse of rain, and sprang shivering to my feet. For a
moment I stood bewildered: the whole train of my reasoning
and dreaming passed afresh through my mind; I was again
tempted, drawn as if with cords, by the image of the cabman's
eating-house, and again recoiled from the possibility of insult.
"Qui dort dine," thought I to myself; and took my homeward
way with wavering footsteps, through rainy streets in which the
lamps and the shop-windows now began to gleam; still
marshalling imaginary dinners as I went.
"Ah, Monsieur Dodd," said the porter, "there has been a
registered letter for you. The facteur will bring it again
A registered letter for me, who had been so long without one?
Of what it could possibly contain, I had no vestige of a guess;
nor did I delay myself guessing; far less form any conscious
plan of dishonesty: the lies flowed from me like a natural
"O," said I, "my remittance at last! What a bother I should
have missed it! Can you lend me a hundred francs until
I had never attempted to borrow from the porter till that
moment: the registered letter was, besides, my warranty; and
he gave me what he had--three napoleons and some francs in
silver. I pocketed the money carelessly, lingered a while
chaffing, strolled leisurely to the door; and then (fast as my
trembling legs could carry me) round the corner to the Cafe de
Cluny. French waiters are deft and speedy; they were not deft
enough for me; and I had scarce decency to let the man set the
wine upon the table or put the butter alongside the bread,
before my glass and my mouth were filled. Exquisite bread of
the Cafe Cluny, exquisite first glass of old Pomard tingling to
my wet feet, indescribable first olive culled from the hors
d'oeuvre--I suppose, when I come to lie dying, and the lamp
begins to grow dim, I shall still recall your savour. Over the
rest of that meal, and the rest of the evening, clouds lie thick;
clouds perhaps of Burgundy; perhaps, more properly, of famine
I remember clearly, at least, the shame, the despair, of the next
morning, when I reviewed what I had done, and how I had
swindled the poor honest porter; and, as if that were not
enough, fairly burnt my ships, and brought bankruptcy home to
that last refuge, my garret. The porter would expect his money;
I could not pay him; here was scandal in the house; and I knew
right well the cause of scandal would have to pack. "What do
you mean by calling my honesty in question?" I had cried the
day before, turning upon Myner. Ah, that day before! the day
before Waterloo, the day before the Flood; the day before I had
sold the roof over my head, my future, and my self-respect, for
a dinner at the Cafe Cluny!
In the midst of these lamentations the famous registered letter
came to my door, with healing under its seals. It bore the
postmark of San Francisco, where Pinkerton was already
struggling to the neck in multifarious affairs: it renewed the
offer of an allowance, which his improved estate permitted him
to announce at the figure of two hundred francs a month; and in
case I was in some immediate pinch, it enclosed an
introductory draft for forty dollars. There are a thousand
excellent reasons why a man, in this self-helpful epoch, should
decline to be dependent on another; but the most numerous and
cogent considerations all bow to a necessity as stern as mine;
and the banks were scarce open ere the draft was cashed.
It was early in December that I thus sold myself into slavery;
and for six months I dragged a slowly lengthening chain of
gratitude and uneasiness. At the cost of some debt I managed
to excel myself and eclipse the Genius of Muskegon, in a small
but highly patriotic Standard Bearer for the Salon; whither it
was duly admitted, where it stood the proper length of days
entirely unremarked, and whence it came back to me as
patriotic as before. I threw my whole soul (as Pinkerton would
have phrased it) into clocks and candlesticks; the devil a
candlestick-maker would have anything to say to my designs.
Even when Dijon, with his infinite good humour and infinite
scorn for all such journey-work, consented to peddle them in
indiscriminately with his own, the dealers still detected and
rejected mine. Home they returned to me, true as the Standard
Bearer; who now, at the head of quite a regiment of lesser
idols, began to grow an eyesore in the scanty studio of my
friend. Dijon and I have sat by the hour, and gazed upon that
company of images. The severe, the frisky, the classical, the
Louis Quinze, were there--from Joan of Arc in her soldierly
cuirass to Leda with the swan; nay, and God forgive me for a
man that knew better! the humorous was represented also. We
sat and gazed, I say; we criticised, we turned them hither and
thither; even upon the closest inspection they looked quite like
statuettes; and yet nobody would have a gift of them!
Vanity dies hard; in some obstinate cases it outlives the man:
but about the sixth month, when I already owed near two
hundred dollars to Pinkerton, and half as much again in debts
scattered about Paris, I awoke one morning with a horrid
sentiment of oppression, and found I was alone: my vanity had
breathed her last during the night. I dared not plunge deeper in
the bog; I saw no hope in my poor statuary; I owned myself
beaten at last; and sitting down in my nightshirt beside the
window, whence I had a glimpse of the tree-tops at the corner
of the boulevard, and where the music of its early traffic fell
agreeably upon my ear, I penned my farewell to Paris, to art, to
my whole past life, and my whole former self. "I give in," I
wrote. "When the next allowance arrives, I shall go straight
out West, where you can do what you like with me."
It is to be understood that Pinkerton had been, in a sense,
pressing me to come from the beginning; depicting his isolation
among new acquaintances, "who have none of them your
culture," he wrote; expressing his friendship in terms so warm
that it sometimes embarrassed me to think how poorly I could
echo them; dwelling upon his need for assistance; and the next
moment turning about to commend my resolution and press me
to remain in Paris. "Only remember, Loudon," he would write,
"if you ever DO tire of it, there's plenty of work here for you
--honest, hard, well-paid work, developing the resources of this
practically virgin State. And of course I needn't say what a
pleasure it would be to me if we were going at it SHOULDER
TO SHOULDER." I marvel (looking back) that I could so long
have resisted these appeals, and continue to sink my friend's
money in a manner that I knew him to dislike. At least, when I
did awake to any sense of my position, I awoke to it entirely;
and determined not only to follow his counsel for the future, but
even as regards the past, to rectify his losses. For in this
juncture of affairs I called to mind that I was not without a
possible resource, and resolved, at whatever cost of
mortification, to beard the Loudon family in their historic city.
In the excellent Scots' phrase, I made a moonlight flitting, a
thing never dignified, but in my case unusually easy. As I had
scarce a pair of boots worth portage, I deserted the whole of my
effects without a pang. Dijon fell heir to Joan of Arc, the
Standard Bearer, and the Musketeers. He was present when I
bought and frugally stocked my new portmanteau; and it was at
the door of the trunk shop that I took my leave of him, for my
last few hours in Paris must be spent alone. It was alone (and
at a far higher figure than my finances warranted) that I
discussed my dinner; alone that I took my ticket at Saint
Lazare; all alone, though in a carriage full of people, that I
watched the moon shine on the Seine flood with its tufted
islets, on Rouen with her spires, and on the shipping in the
harbour of Dieppe. When the first light of the morning called
me from troubled slumbers on the deck, I beheld the dawn at
first with pleasure; I watched with pleasure the green shores of
England rising out of rosy haze; I took the salt air with delight
into my nostrils; and then all came back to me; that I was no
longer an artist, no longer myself; that I was leaving all I cared
for, and returning to all that I detested, the slave of debt and
gratitude, a public and a branded failure.
From this picture of my own disgrace and wretchedness, it is
not wonderful if my mind turned with relief to the thought of
Pinkerton, waiting for me, as I knew, with unwearied affection,
and regarding me with a respect that I had never deserved, and
might therefore fairly hope that I should never forfeit. The
inequality of our relation struck me rudely. I must have been
stupid, indeed, if I could have considered the history of that
friendship without shame--I, who had given so little, who had
accepted and profited by so much. I had the whole day before
me in London, and I determined (at least in words) to set the
balance somewhat straighter. Seated in the corner of a public
place, and calling for sheet after sheet of paper, I poured forth
the expression of my gratitude, my penitence for the past, my
resolutions for the future. Till now, I told him, my course had
been mere selfishness. I had been selfish to my father and to
my friend, taking their help, and denying them (which was all
they asked) the poor gratification of my company and
Wonderful are the consolations of literature! As soon as that
letter was written and posted, the consciousness of virtue
glowed in my veins like some rare vintage.
IN WHICH I GO WEST.
I reached my uncle's door next morning in time to sit down
with the family to breakfast. More than three years had
intervened almost without mutation in that stationary
household, since I had sat there first, a young American
freshman, bewildered among unfamiliar dainties, Finnan
haddock, kippered salmon, baps and mutton ham, and had
wearied my mind in vain to guess what should be under the
tea-cosey. If there were any change at all, it seemed that I had
risen in the family esteem. My father's death once fittingly
referred to, with a ceremonial lengthening of Scotch upper lips
and wagging of the female head, the party launched at once
(God help me) into the more cheerful topic of my own
successes. They had been so pleased to hear such good
accounts of me; I was quite a great man now; where was that
beautiful statue of the Genius of Something or other? "You
haven't it here? not here? Really?" asks the sprightliest of my
cousins, shaking curls at me; as though it were likely I had
brought it in a cab, or kept it concealed about my person like a
birthday surprise. In the bosom of this family, unaccustomed
to the tropical nonsense of the West, it became plain the
_Sunday Herald_ and poor, blethering Pinkerton had been
accepted for their face. It is not possible to invent a
circumstance that could have more depressed me; and I am
conscious that I behaved all through that breakfast like a whipt
At length, the meal and family prayers being both happily over,
I requested the favour of an interview with Uncle Adam on "the
state of my affairs." At sound of this ominous expression, the
good man's face conspicuously lengthened; and when my
grandfather, having had the proposition repeated to him (for he
was hard of hearing) announced his intention of being present
at the interview, I could not but think that Uncle Adam's
sorrow kindled into momentary irritation. Nothing, however,
but the usual grim cordiality appeared upon the surface; and we
all three passed ceremoniously to the adjoining library, a
gloomy theatre for a depressing piece of business. My
grandfather charged a clay pipe, and sat tremulously smoking
in a corner of the fireless chimney; behind him, although the
morning was both chill and dark, the window was partly open
and the blind partly down: I cannot depict what an air he had
of being out of place, like a man shipwrecked there. Uncle
Adam had his station at the business table in the midst.
Valuable rows of books looked down upon the place of torture;
and I could hear sparrows chirping in the garden, and my
sprightly cousin already banging the piano and pouring forth an
acid stream of song from the drawing-room overhead.
It was in these circumstances that, with all brevity of speech
and a certain boyish sullenness of manner, looking the while
upon the floor, I informed my relatives of my financial
situation: the amount I owed Pinkerton; the hopelessness of
any maintenance from sculpture; the career offered me in the
States; and how, before becoming more beholden to a stranger,
I had judged it right to lay the case before my family.
"I am only sorry you did not come to me at first," said Uncle
Adam. "I take the liberty to say it would have been more
"I think so too, Uncle Adam," I replied; "but you must bear in
mind I was ignorant in what light you might regard my
"I hope I would never turn my back on my own flesh and
blood," he returned with emphasis; but to my anxious ear, with
more of temper than affection. "I could never forget you were
my sister's son. I regard this as a manifest duty. I have no
choice but to accept the entire responsibility of the position you
I did not know what else to do but murmur "thank you."
"Yes," he pursued, "and there is something providential in the
circumstance that you come at the right time. In my old firm
there is a vacancy; they call themselves Italian Warehousemen
now," he continued, regarding me with a twinkle of humour;
"so you may think yourself in luck: we were only grocers in my
day. I shall place you there to-morrow."
"Stop a moment, Uncle Adam," I broke in. "This is not at all
what I am asking. I ask you to pay Pinkerton, who is a poor
man. I ask you to clear my feet of debt, not to arrange my life
or any part of it."
"If I wished to be harsh, I might remind you that beggars
cannot be choosers," said my uncle; "and as to managing your
life, you have tried your own way already, and you see what
you have made of it. You must now accept the guidance of
those older and (whatever you may think of it) wiser than
yourself. All these schemes of your friend (of whom I know
nothing, by the by) and talk of openings in the West, I simply
disregard. I have no idea whatever of your going troking across
a continent on a wild-goose chase. In this situation, which I
am fortunately able to place at your disposal, and which many a
well-conducted young man would be glad to jump at, you will
receive, to begin with, eighteen shillings a week."
"Eighteen shillings a week!" I cried. "Why, my poor friend
gave me more than that for nothing!"
"And I think it is this very friend you are now trying to repay?"
observed my uncle, with an air of one advancing a strong
"Aadam!" said my grandfather.
"I'm vexed you should be present at this business," quoth Uncle
Adam, swinging rather obsequiously towards the stonemason;
"but I must remind you it is of your own seeking."
"Aadam!" repeated the old man.
"Well, sir, I am listening," says my uncle.
My grandfather took a puff or two in silence; and then, "Ye're
makin' an awfu' poor appearance, Aadam," said he.
My uncle visibly reared at the affront. "I'm sorry you should
think so," said he, "and still more sorry you should say so
before present company."
"A believe that; A ken that, Aadam," returned old Loudon,
dryly; "and the curiis thing is, I'm no very carin'. See here, ma
man," he continued, addressing himself to me. "A'm your
grandfaither, amn't I not? Never you mind what Aadam says.
A'll see justice din ye. A'm rich."
"Father," said Uncle Adam, "I would like one word with you in
I rose to go.
"Set down upon your hinderlands," cried my grandfather,
almost savagely. "If Aadam has anything to say, let him say it.
It's me that has the money here; and by Gravy! I'm goin' to be
Upon this scurvy encouragement, it appeared that my uncle had
no remark to offer: twice challenged to "speak out and be done
with it," he twice sullenly declined; and I may mention that
about this period of the engagement, I began to be sorry for
"See here, then, Jeannie's yin!" resumed my grandfather. "A'm
goin' to give ye a set-off. Your mither was always my fav'rite,
for A never could agree with Aadam. A like ye fine yoursel';
there's nae noansense aboot ye; ye've a fine nayteral idee of
builder's work; ye've been to France, where they tell me they're
grand at the stuccy. A splendid thing for ceilin's, the stuccy!
and it's a vailyable disguise, too; A don't believe there's a
builder in Scotland has used more stuccy than me. But as A
was sayin', if ye'll follie that trade, with the capital that A'm
goin' to give ye, ye may live yet to be as rich as mysel'. Ye see,
ye would have always had a share of it when A was gone; it
appears ye're needin' it now; well, ye'll get the less, as is only
just and proper."
Uncle Adam cleared his throat. "This is very handsome,
father," said he; "and I am sure Loudon feels it so. Very
handsome, and as you say, very just; but will you allow me to
say that it had better, perhaps, be put in black and white?"
The enmity always smouldering between the two men at this
ill-judged interruption almost burst in flame. The stonemason
turned upon his offspring, his long upper lip pulled down, for
all the world, like a monkey's. He stared a while in virulent
silence; and then "Get Gregg!" said he.
The effect of these words was very visible. "He will be gone to
his office," stammered my uncle.
"Get Gregg!" repeated my grandfather.
"I tell you, he will be gone to his office," reiterated Adam.
"And I tell ye, he's takin' his smoke," retorted the old man.
"Very well, then," cried my uncle, getting to his feet with some
alacrity, as upon a sudden change of thought, "I will get him
"Ye will not!" cried my grandfather. "Ye will sit there upon
"Then how the devil am I to get him?" my uncle broke forth,
with not unnatural petulance.
My grandfather (having no possible answer) grinned at his son
with the malice of a schoolboy; then he rang the bell.
"Take the garden key," said Uncle Adam to the servant; "go
over to the garden, and if Mr. Gregg the lawyer is there (he
generally sits under the red hawthorn), give him old Mr.
Loudon's compliments, and will he step in here for a moment?"
"Mr. Gregg the lawyer!" At once I understood (what had been
puzzling me) the significance of my grandfather and the alarm
of my poor uncle: the stonemason's will, it was supposed, hung
trembling in the balance.
"Look here, grandfather," I said, "I didn't want any of this. All
I wanted was a loan of (say) two hundred pounds. I can take
care of myself; I have prospects and opportunities, good friends
in the States----"
The old man waved me down. "It's me that speaks here," he
said curtly; and we waited the coming of the lawyer in a triple
silence. He appeared at last, the maid ushering him in--a
spectacled, dry, but not ungenial looking man.
"Here, Gregg," cried my grandfather. "Just a question: What
has Aadam got to do with my will?"
"I'm afraid I don't quite understand," said the lawyer, staring.
"What has he got to do with it?" repeated the old man, smiting
with his fist upon the arm of his chair. "Is my money mine's, or
is it Aadam's? Can Aadam interfere?"
"O, I see," said Mr. Gregg. "Certainly not. On the marriage of
both of your children a certain sum was paid down and
accepted in full of legitim. You have surely not forgotten the
circumstance, Mr. Loudon?"
"So that, if I like," concluded my grandfather, hammering out
his words, "I can leave every doit I die possessed of to the Great
Magunn?"--meaning probably the Great Mogul.
"No doubt of it," replied Gregg, with a shadow of a smile.
"Ye hear that, Aadam?" asked my grandfather.
"I may be allowed to say I had no need to hear it," said my
"Very well," says my grandfather. "You and Jeannie's yin can
go for a bit walk. Me and Gregg has business."
When once I was in the hall alone with Uncle Adam, I turned
to him, sick at heart. "Uncle Adam," I said, "you can
understand, better than I can say, how very painful all this is to
"Yes, I am sorry you have seen your grandfather in so
unamiable a light," replied this extraordinary man. "You
shouldn't allow it to affect your mind though. He has sterling
qualities, quite an extraordinary character; and I have no fear
but he means to behave handsomely to you."
His composure was beyond my imitation: the house could not
contain me, nor could I even promise to return to it: in
concession to which weakness, it was agreed that I should call
in about an hour at the office of the lawyer, whom (as he left
the library) Uncle Adam should waylay and inform of the
arrangement. I suppose there was never a more topsy-turvy
situation: you would have thought it was I who had suffered
some rebuff, and that iron-sided Adam was a generous
conqueror who scorned to take advantage.
It was plain enough that I was to be endowed: to what extent
and upon what conditions I was now left for an hour to
meditate in the wide and solitary thoroughfares of the new
town, taking counsel with street-corner statues of George IV.
and William Pitt, improving my mind with the pictures in the
window of a music-shop, and renewing my acquaintance with
Edinburgh east wind. By the end of the hour I made my way to
Mr. Gregg's office, where I was placed, with a few appropriate
words, in possession of a cheque for two thousand pounds and
a small parcel of architectural works.
"Mr. Loudon bids me add," continued the lawyer, consulting a
little sheet of notes, "that although these volumes are very
valuable to the practical builder, you must be careful not to lose
originality. He tells you also not to be 'hadden doun'--his own
expression--by the theory of strains, and that Portland cement,
properly sanded, will go a long way."
I smiled, and remarked that I supposed it would.
"I once lived in one of my excellent client's houses," observed
the lawyer; "and I was tempted, in that case, to think it had
gone far enough."
"Under these circumstances, sir," said I, "you will be rather
relieved to hear that I have no intention of becoming a builder."
At this, he fairly laughed; and, the ice being broken, I was able
to consult him as to my conduct. He insisted I must return to
the house, at least, for luncheon, and one of my walks with Mr.
Loudon. "For the evening, I will furnish you with an excuse, if
you please," said he, "by asking you to a bachelor dinner with
myself. But the luncheon and the walk are unavoidable. He is
an old man, and, I believe, really fond of you; he would
naturally feel aggrieved if there were any appearance of
avoiding him; and as for Mr. Adam, do you know, I think your
delicacy out of place.... And now, Mr. Dodd, what are you to
do with this money?"
Ay, there was the question. With two thousand pounds--fifty
thousand francs--I might return to Paris and the arts, and be a
prince and millionaire in that thrifty Latin Quarter. I think I
had the grace, with one corner of my mind, to be glad that I had
sent the London letter: I know very well that with the rest and
worst of me, I repented bitterly of that precipitate act. On one
point, however, my whole multiplex estate of man was
unanimous: the letter being gone, there was no help but I must
follow. The money was accordingly divided in two unequal
shares: for the first, Mr. Gregg got me a bill in the name of
Dijon to meet my liabilities in Paris; for the second, as I had
already cash in hand for the expenses of my journey, he
supplied me with drafts on San Francisco.
The rest of my business in Edinburgh, not to dwell on a very
agreeable dinner with the lawyer or the horrors of the family
luncheon, took the form of an excursion with the stonemason,
who led me this time to no suburb or work of his old hands, but
with an impulse both natural and pretty, to that more enduring
home which he had chosen for his clay. It was in a cemetery,
by some strange chance, immured within the bulwarks of a
prison; standing, besides, on the margin of a cliff, crowded
with elderly stone memorials, and green with turf and ivy. The
east wind (which I thought too harsh for the old man)
continually shook the boughs, and the thin sun of a Scottish
summer drew their dancing shadows.
"I wanted ye to see the place," said he. "Yon's the stane.
Euphemia Ross: that was my goodwife, your grandmither
--hoots! I'm wrong; that was my first yin; I had no bairns by
her;--yours is the second, Mary Murray, Born 1819, Died 1850:
that's her--a fine, plain, decent sort of a creature, tak' her
athegether. Alexander Loudon, Born Seventeen Ninety-Twa,
Died--and then a hole in the ballant: that's me. Alexander's
my name. They ca'd me Ecky when I was a boy. Eh, Ecky!
ye're an awfu' auld man!"
I had a second and sadder experience of graveyards at my next
alighting-place, the city of Muskegon, now rendered
conspicuous by the dome of the new capitol encaged in
scaffolding. It was late in the afternoon when I arrived, and
raining; and as I walked in great streets, of the very name of
which I was quite ignorant--double, treble, and quadruple lines
of horse-cars jingling by--hundred-fold wires of telegraph and
telephone matting heaven above my head--huge, staring
houses, garish and gloomy, flanking me from either hand--the
thought of the Rue Racine, ay, and of the cabman's eating
-house, brought tears to my eyes. The whole monotonous
Babel had grown, or I should rather say swelled, with such a
leap since my departure, that I must continually inquire my
way; and the very cemetery was brand new. Death, however,
had been active; the graves were already numerous, and I must
pick my way in the rain, among the tawdry sepulchres of
millionnaires, and past the plain black crosses of Hungarian
labourers, till chance or instinct led me to the place that was my
father's. The stone had been erected (I knew already) "by
admiring friends"; I could now judge their taste in monuments;
their taste in literature, methought, I could imagine, and I
refrained from drawing near enough to read the terms of the
inscription. But the name was in larger letters and stared at
me--JAMES K. DODD. What a singular thing is a name, I
thought; how it clings to a man, and continually misrepresents,
and then survives him; and it flashed across my mind, with a
mixture of regret and bitter mirth, that I had never known, and
now probably never should know, what the K had represented.
King, Kilter, Kay, Kaiser, I went, running over names at
random, and then stumbled with ludicrous misspelling on
Kornelius, and had nearly laughed aloud. I have never been
more childish; I suppose (although the deeper voices of my
nature seemed all dumb) because I have never been more
moved. And at this last incongruous antic of my nerves, I was
seized with a panic of remorse and fled the cemetery.
Scarce less funereal was the rest of my experience in
Muskegon, where, nevertheless, I lingered, visiting my father's
circle, for some days. It was in piety to him I lingered; and I
might have spared myself the pain. His memory was already
quite gone out. For his sake, indeed, I was made welcome; and
for mine the conversation rolled awhile with laborious effort on
the virtues of the deceased. His former comrades dwelt, in my
company, upon his business talents or his generosity for public
purposes; when my back was turned, they remembered him no
more. My father had loved me; I had left him alone to live and
die among the indifferent; now I returned to find him dead and
buried and forgotten. Unavailing penitence translated itself in
my thoughts to fresh resolve. There was another poor soul who
loved me: Pinkerton. I must not be guilty twice of the same
A week perhaps had been thus wasted, nor had I prepared my
friend for the delay. Accordingly, when I had changed trains at
Council Bluffs, I was aware of a man appearing at the end of
the car with a telegram in his hand and inquiring whether there
were any one aboard "of the name of LONDON Dodd?" I
thought the name near enough, claimed the despatch, and
found it was from Pinkerton: "What day do you arrive?
Awfully important." I sent him an answer giving day and hour,
and at Ogden found a fresh despatch awaiting me: "That will
do. Unspeakable relief. Meet you at Sacramento." In Paris
days I had a private name for Pinkerton: "The Irrepressible"
was what I had called him in hours of bitterness, and the name
rose once more on my lips. What mischief was he up to now?
What new bowl was my benignant monster brewing for his
Frankenstein? In what new imbroglio should I alight on the
Pacific coast? My trust in the man was entire, and my distrust
perfect. I knew he would never mean amiss; but I was
convinced he would almost never (in my sense) do aright.
I suppose these vague anticipations added a shade of gloom to
that already gloomy place of travel: Nebraska, Wyoming,
Utah, Nevada, scowled in my face at least, and seemed to point
me back again to that other native land of mine, the Latin
Quarter. But when the Sierras had been climbed, and the train,
after so long beating and panting, stretched itself upon the
downward track--when I beheld that vast extent of prosperous
country rolling seaward from the woods and the blue
mountains, that illimitable spread of rippling corn, the trees
growing and blowing in the merry weather, the country boys
thronging aboard the train with figs and peaches, and the
conductors, and the very darky stewards, visibly exulting in the
change--up went my soul like a balloon; Care fell from his
perch upon my shoulders; and when I spied my Pinkerton
among the crowd at Sacramento, I thought of nothing but to
shout and wave for him, and grasp him by the hand, like what
he was--my dearest friend.
"O Loudon!" he cried. "Man, how I've pined for you! And you
haven't come an hour too soon. You're known here and waited
for; I've been booming you already; you're billed for a lecture
to-morrow night: _Student Life in Paris, Grave and Gay_:
twelve hundred places booked at the last stock! Tut, man,
you're looking thin! Here, try a drop of this." And he produced
a case bottle, staringly labelled PINKERTON'S THIRTEEN
STAR GOLDEN STATE BRANDY, WARRANTED
"God bless me!" said I, gasping and winking after my first
plunge into this fiery fluid. "And what does 'Warranted Entire'
"Why, Loudon! you ought to know that!" cried Pinkerton. "It's
real, copper-bottomed English; you see it on all the old-time
wayside hostelries over there."
"But if I'm not mistaken, it means something Warranted
Entirely different," said I, "and applies to the public house, and
not the beverages sold."
"It's very possible," said Jim, quite unabashed. "It's effective,
anyway; and I can tell you, sir, it has boomed that spirit: it
goes now by the gross of cases. By the way, I hope you won't
mind; I've got your portrait all over San Francisco for the
lecture, enlarged from that carte de visite: H. Loudon Dodd,
the Americo-Parisienne Sculptor. Here's a proof of the small
handbills; the posters are the same, only in red and blue, and
the letters fourteen by one."
I looked at the handbill, and my head turned. What was the
use of words? why seek to explain to Pinkerton the knotted
horrors of "Americo-Parisienne"? He took an early occasion to
point it out as "rather a good phrase; gives the two sides at a
glance: I wanted the lecture written up to that." Even after we
had reached San Francisco, and at the actual physical shock of
my own effigy placarded on the streets I had broken forth in
petulant words, he never comprehended in the least the ground
of my aversion.
"If I had only known you disliked red lettering!" was as high as
he could rise. "You are perfectly right: a clear-cut black is
preferable, and shows a great deal further. The only thing that
pains me is the portrait: I own I thought that a success. I'm
dreadfully and truly sorry, my dear fellow: I see now it's not
what you had a right to expect; but I did it, Loudon, for the
best; and the press is all delighted."
At the moment, sweeping through green tule swamps, I fell
direct on the essential. "But, Pinkerton," I cried, "this lecture is
the maddest of your madnesses. How can I prepare a lecture in
"All done, Loudon!" he exclaimed in triumph. "All ready.
Trust me to pull a piece of business through. You'll find it all
type-written in my desk at home. I put the best talent of San
Francisco on the job: Harry Miller, the brightest pressman in
And so he rattled on, beyond reach of my modest protestations,
blurting out his complicated interests, crying up his new
acquaintances, and ever and again hungering to introduce me
to some "whole-souled, grand fellow, as sharp as a needle,"
from whom, and the very thought of whom, my spirit shrank
Well, I was in for it: in for Pinkerton, in for the portrait, in for
the type-written lecture. One promise I extorted--that I was
never again to be committed in ignorance; even for that, when I
saw how its extortion puzzled and depressed the Irrepressible,
my soul repented me; and in all else I suffered myself to be led
uncomplaining at his chariot wheels. The Irrepressible, did I
say? The Irresistible were nigher truth.
But the time to have seen me was when I sat down to Harry
Miller's lecture. He was a facetious dog, this Harry Miller; he
had a gallant way of skirting the indecent which (in my case)
produced physical nausea; and he could be sentimental and
even melodramatic about grisettes and starving genius. I found
he had enjoyed the benefit of my correspondence with
Pinkerton: adventures of my own were here and there horridly
misrepresented, sentiments of my own echoed and exaggerated
till I blushed to recognise them. I will do Harry Miller justice:
he must have had a kind of talent, almost of genius; all
attempts to lower his tone proving fruitless, and the Harry-
Millerism ineradicable. Nay, the monster had a certain key of
style, or want of style, so that certain milder passages, which I
sought to introduce, discorded horribly, and impoverished (if
that were possible) the general effect.
By an early hour of the numbered evening I might have been
observed at the sign of the Poodle Dog, dining with my agent:
so Pinkerton delighted to describe himself. Thence, like an ox
to the slaughter, he led me to the hall, where I stood presently
alone, confronting assembled San Francisco, with no better
allies than a table, a glass of water, and a mass of manuscript
and typework, representing Harry Miller and myself. I read
the lecture; for I had lacked both time and will to get the trash
by heart--read it hurriedly, humbly, and with visible shame.
Now and then I would catch in the auditorium an eye of some
intelligence, now and then, in the manuscript, would stumble
on a richer vein of Harry Miller, and my heart would fail me,
and I gabbled. The audience yawned, it stirred uneasily, it
muttered, grumbled, and broke forth at last in articulate cries of
"Speak up!" and "Nobody can hear!" I took to skipping, and
being extremely ill-acquainted with the country, almost
invariably cut in again in the unintelligible midst of some new
topic. What struck me as extremely ominous, these
misfortunes were allowed to pass without a laugh. Indeed, I
was beginning to fear the worst, and even personal indignity,
when all at once the humour of the thing broke upon me
strongly. I could have laughed aloud; and being again
summoned to speak up, I faced my patrons for the first time
with a smile. "Very well," I said, "I will try, though I don't
suppose anybody wants to hear, and I can't see why anybody
should." Audience and lecturer laughed together till the tears
ran down; vociferous and repeated applause hailed my
impromptu sally. Another hit which I made but a little after, as
I turned three pages of the copy: "You see, I am leaving out as
much as I possibly can," increased the esteem with which my
patrons had begun to regard me; and when I left the stage at
last, my departing form was cheered with laughter, stamping,
shouting, and the waving of hats.
Pinkerton was in the waiting-room, feverishly jotting in his
pocket-book. As he saw me enter, he sprang up, and I declare
the tears were trickling on his cheeks.
"My dear boy," he cried, "I can never forgive myself, and you
can never forgive me. Never mind: I did it for the best. And
how nobly you clung on! I dreaded we should have had to
return the money at the doors."
"It would have been more honest if we had," said I.
The pressmen followed me, Harry Miller in the front ranks; and
I was amazed to find them, on the whole, a pleasant set of lads,
probably more sinned against than sinning, and even Harry
Miller apparently a gentleman. I had in oysters and
champagne--for the receipts were excellent--and being in a
high state of nervous tension, kept the table in a roar. Indeed, I
was never in my life so well inspired as when I described my
vigil over Harry Miller's literature or the series of my emotions
as I faced the audience. The lads vowed I was the soul of good
company and the prince of lecturers; and--so wonderful an
institution is the popular press--if you had seen the notices next
day in all the papers, you must have supposed my evening's
entertainment an unqualified success.
I was in excellent spirits when I returned home that night, but
the miserable Pinkerton sorrowed for us both.
"O, Loudon," he said, "I shall never forgive myself. When I
saw you didn't catch on to the idea of the lecture, I should have
given it myself!"
IRONS IN THE FIRE.
The food of the body differs not so greatly for the fool or the
sage, the elephant or the cock-sparrow; and similar chemical
elements, variously disguised, support all mortals. A brief
study of Pinkerton in his new setting convinced me of a kindred
truth about that other and mental digestion, by which we
extract what is called "fun for our money" out of life. In the
same spirit as a schoolboy, deep in Mayne Reid, handles a
dummy gun and crawls among imaginary forests, Pinkerton
sped through Kearney Street upon his daily business,
representing to himself a highly coloured part in life's
performance, and happy for hours if he should have chanced to
brush against a millionnaire. Reality was his romance; he
gloried to be thus engaged; he wallowed in his business.
Suppose a man to dig up a galleon on the Coromandel coast,
his rakish schooner keeping the while an offing under easy sail,
and he, by the blaze of a great fire of wreckwood, to measure
ingots by the bucketful on the uproarious beach: such an one
might realise a greater material spoil; he should have no more
profit of romance than Pinkerton when he cast up his weekly
balance-sheet in a bald office. Every dollar gained was like
something brought ashore from a mysterious deep; every
venture made was like a diver's plunge; and as he thrust his
bold hand into the plexus of the money-market, he was
delightedly aware of how he shook the pillars of existence,
turned out men (as at a battle-cry) to labour in far countries,
and set the gold twitching in the drawers of millionnaires.
I could never fathom the full extent of his speculations; but
there were five separate businesses which he avowed and
carried like a banner. The Thirteen Star Golden State Brandy,
Warranted Entire (a very flagrant distillation) filled a great part
of his thoughts, and was kept before the public in an eloquent
but misleading treatise: _Why Drink French Brandy? A Word
to the Wise._ He kept an office for advertisers, counselling,
designing, acting as middleman with printers and bill-stickers,
for the inexperienced or the uninspired: the dull haberdasher
came to him for ideas, the smart theatrical agent for his local
knowledge; and one and all departed with a copy of his
pamphlet: _How, When, and Where; or, the Advertiser's
Vade-Mecum._ He had a tug chartered every Saturday
afternoon and night, carried people outside the Heads, and
provided them with lines and bait for six hours' fishing, at the
rate of five dollars a person. I am told that some of them
(doubtless adroit anglers) made a profit on the transaction.
Occasionally he bought wrecks and condemned vessels; these
latter (I cannot tell you how) found their way to sea again under
aliases, and continued to stem the waves triumphantly enough
under the colours of Bolivia or Nicaragua. Lastly, there was a
certain agricultural engine, glorying in a great deal of vermilion
and blue paint, and filling (it appeared) a "long-felt want," in
which his interest was something like a tenth.
This for the face or front of his concerns. "On the outside," as
he phrased it, he was variously and mysteriously engaged. No
dollar slept in his possession; rather he kept all simultaneously
flying like a conjurer with oranges. My own earnings, when I
began to have a share, he would but show me for a moment,
and disperse again, like those illusive money gifts which are
flashed in the eyes of childhood only to be entombed in the
missionary box. And he would come down radiant from a
weekly balance-sheet, clap me on the shoulder, declare himself
a winner by Gargantuan figures, and prove destitute of a
quarter for a drink.
"What on earth have you done with it?" I would ask.
"Into the mill again; all re-invested!" he would cry, with infinite
delight. Investment was ever his word. He could not bear
what he called gambling. "Never touch stocks, Loudon," he
would say; "nothing but legitimate business." And yet, Heaven
knows, many an indurated gambler might have drawn back
appalled at the first hint of some of Pinkerton's investments!
One, which I succeeded in tracking home, and instance for a
specimen, was a seventh share in the charter of a certain ill-
starred schooner bound for Mexico, to smuggle weapons on the
one trip, and cigars upon the other. The latter end of this
enterprise, involving (as it did) shipwreck, confiscation, and a
lawsuit with the underwriters, was too painful to be dwelt upon
at length. "It's proved a disappointment," was as far as my
friend would go with me in words; but I knew, from
observation, that the fabric of his fortunes tottered. For the rest,
it was only by accident I got wind of the transaction; for
Pinkerton, after a time, was shy of introducing me to his
arcana: the reason you are to hear presently.
The office which was (or should have been) the point of rest for
so many evolving dollars stood in the heart of the city: a high
and spacious room, with many plate-glass windows. A glazed
cabinet of polished redwood offered to the eye a regiment of
some two hundred bottles, conspicuously labelled. These were
all charged with Pinkerton's Thirteen Star, although from
across the room it would have required an expert to distinguish
them from the same number of bottles of Courvoisier. I used to
twit my friend with this resemblance, and propose a new
edition of the pamphlet, with the title thus improved: _Why
Drink French Brandy, when we give you the same labels?_
The doors of the cabinet revolved all day upon their hinges; and
if there entered any one who was a stranger to the merits of the
brand, he departed laden with a bottle. When I used to protest
at this extravagance, "My dear Loudon," Pinkerton would cry,
"you don't seem to catch on to business principles! The prime
cost of the spirit is literally nothing. I couldn't find a cheaper
advertisement if I tried." Against the side post of the cabinet
there leaned a gaudy umbrella, preserved there as a relic. It
appears that when Pinkerton was about to place Thirteen Star
upon the market, the rainy season was at hand. He lay dark,
almost in penury, awaiting the first shower, at which, as upon a
signal, the main thoroughfares became dotted with his agents,
vendors of advertisements; and the whole world of San
Francisco, from the businessman fleeing for the ferry-boat, to
the lady waiting at the corner for her car, sheltered itself under
umbrellas with this strange device: Are you wet? Try Thirteen
Star. "It was a mammoth boom," said Pinkerton, with a sigh of
delighted recollection. "There wasn't another umbrella to be
seen. I stood at this window, Loudon, feasting my eyes; and I
declare, I felt like Vanderbilt." And it was to this neat
application of the local climate that he owed, not only much of
the sale of Thirteen Star, but the whole business of his
The large desk (to resume our survey of the office) stood about
the middle, knee-deep in stacks of handbills and posters, of
_Why Drink French Brandy?_ and _The Advertiser's Vade-
Mecum._ It was flanked upon the one hand by two female
type-writers, who rested not between the hours of nine and
four, and upon the other by a model of the agricultural
machine. The walls, where they were not broken by telephone
boxes and a couple of photographs--one representing the wreck
of the James L. Moody on a bold and broken coast, the other
the Saturday tug alive with amateur fishers--almost
disappeared under oil-paintings gaudily framed. Many of these
were relics of the Latin Quarter, and I must do Pinkerton the
justice to say that none of them were bad, and some had
remarkable merit. They went off slowly but for handsome
figures; and their places were progressively supplied with the
work of local artists. These last it was one of my first duties to
review and criticise. Some of them were villainous, yet all
were saleable. I said so; and the next moment saw myself, the
figure of a miserable renegade, bearing arms in the wrong
camp. I was to look at pictures thenceforward, not with the eye
of the artist, but the dealer; and I saw the stream widen that
divided me from all I loved.
"Now, Loudon," Pinkerton had said, the morning after the
lecture, "now Loudon, we can go at it shoulder to shoulder.
This is what I have longed for: I wanted two heads and four
arms; and now I have 'em. You'll find it's just the same as
art--all observation and imagination; only more movement.
Just wait till you begin to feel the charm!"
I might have waited long. Perhaps I lack a sense; for our whole
existence seemed to me one dreary bustle, and the place we
bustled in fitly to be called the Place of Yawning. I slept in a
little den behind the office; Pinkerton, in the office itself,
stretched on a patent sofa which sometimes collapsed, his
slumbers still further menaced by an imminent clock with an
alarm. Roused by this diabolical contrivance, we rose early,
went forth early to breakfast, and returned by nine to what
Pinkerton called work, and I distraction. Masses of letters
must be opened, read, and answered; some by me at a
subsidiary desk which had been introduced on the morning of
my arrival; others by my bright-eyed friend, pacing the room
like a caged lion as he dictated to the tinkling type-writers.
Masses of wet proof had to be overhauled and scrawled upon
with a blue pencil--"rustic"--"six-inch caps"--"bold spacing
here"--or sometimes terms more fervid, as for instance this,
which I remember Pinkerton to have spirted on the margin of
an advertisement of Soothing Syrup: "Throw this all down.
Have you never printed an advertisement? I'll be round in half
an hour." The ledger and sale-book, besides, we had always
with us. Such was the backbone of our occupation, and
tolerable enough; but the far greater proportion of our time was
consumed by visitors, whole-souled, grand fellows no doubt,
and as sharp as a needle, but to me unfortunately not diverting.
Some were apparently half-witted, and must be talked over by
the hour before they could reach the humblest decision, which
they only left the office to return again (ten minutes later) and
rescind. Others came with a vast show of hurry and despatch,
but I observed it to be principally show. The agricultural
model for instance, which was practicable, proved a kind of
flypaper for these busybodies. I have seen them blankly turn
the crank of it for five minutes at a time, simulating (to
nobody's deception) business interest: "Good thing this,
Pinkerton? Sell much of it? Ha! Couldn't use it, I suppose, as
a medium of advertisement for my article?"--which was
perhaps toilet soap. Others (a still worse variety) carried us to
neighbouring saloons to dice for cocktails and (after the
cocktails were paid) for dollars on a corner of the counter. The
attraction of dice for all these people was indeed extraordinary:
at a certain club, where I once dined in the character of "my
partner, Mr. Dodd," the dice-box came on the table with the
wine, an artless substitute for after-dinner wit.
Of all our visitors, I believe I preferred Emperor Norton; the
very mention of whose name reminds me I am doing scanty
justice to the folks of San Francisco. In what other city would a
harmless madman who supposed himself emperor of the two
Americas have been so fostered and encouraged? Where else
would even the people of the streets have respected the poor
soul's illusion? Where else would bankers and merchants have
received his visits, cashed his cheques, and submitted to his
small assessments? Where else would he have been suffered to
attend and address the exhibition days of schools and colleges?
where else, in God's green earth, have taken his pick of
restaurants, ransacked the bill of fare, and departed scathless?
They tell me he was even an exacting patron, threatening to
withdraw his custom when dissatisfied; and I can believe it, for
his face wore an expression distinctly gastronomical. Pinkerton
had received from this monarch a cabinet appointment; I have
seen the brevet, wondering mainly at the good nature of the
printer who had executed the forms, and I think my friend was
at the head either of foreign affairs or education: it mattered,
indeed, nothing, the prestation being in all offices identical. It
was at a comparatively early date that I saw Jim in the exercise
of his public functions. His Majesty entered the office--a
portly, rather flabby man, with the face of a gentleman,
rendered unspeakably pathetic and absurd by the great sabre at
his side and the peacock's feather in his hat.
"I have called to remind you, Mr. Pinkerton, that you are
somewhat in arrear of taxes," he said, with old-fashioned,
"Well, your Majesty, what is the amount?" asked Jim; and
when the figure was named (it was generally two or three
dollars), paid upon the nail and offered a bonus in the shape of
"I am always delighted to patronise native industries," said
Norton the First. "San Francisco is public-spirited in what
concerns its Emperor; and indeed, sir, of all my domains, it is
my favourite city."
"Come," said I, when he was gone, "I prefer that customer to
"It's really rather a distinction," Jim admitted. "I think it must
have been the umbrella racket that attracted him."
We were distinguished under the rose by the notice of other and
greater men. There were days when Jim wore an air of unusual
capacity and resolve, spoke with more brevity like one pressed
for time, and took often on his tongue such phrases as
"Longhurst told me so this morning," or "I had it straight from
Longhurst himself." It was no wonder, I used to think, that
Pinkerton was called to council with such Titans; for the
creature's quickness and resource were beyond praise. In the
early days when he consulted me without reserve, pacing the
room, projecting, ciphering, extending hypothetical interests,
trebling imaginary capital, his "engine" (to renew an excellent
old word) labouring full steam ahead, I could never decide
whether my sense of respect or entertainment were the stronger.
But these good hours were destined to curtailment.
"Yes, it's smart enough," I once observed. "But, Pinkerton, do
you think it's honest?"
"You don't think it's honest!" he wailed. "O dear me, that ever I
should have heard such an expression on your lips!"
At sight of his distress, I plagiarised unblushingly from Myner.
"You seem to think honesty as simple as Blind Man's Buff,"
said I. "It's a more delicate affair than that: delicate as any art."
"O well! at that rate!" he exclaimed, with complete relief.
"I am perfectly certain of one thing: that what you propose is
dishonest," I returned.
"Well, say no more about it. That's settled," he replied.
Thus, almost at a word, my point was carried. But the trouble
was that such differences continued to recur, until we began to
regard each other with alarm. If there were one thing Pinkerton
valued himself upon, it was his honesty; if there were one thing
he clung to, it was my good opinion; and when both were
involved, as was the case in these commercial cruces, the man
was on the rack. My own position, if you consider how much I
owed him, how hateful is the trade of fault-finder, and that yet I
lived and fattened on these questionable operations, was
perhaps equally distressing. If I had been more sterling or
more combative things might have gone extremely far. But, in
truth, I was just base enough to profit by what was not forced
on my attention, rather than seek scenes: Pinkerton quite
cunning enough to avail himself of my weakness; and it was a
relief to both when he began to involve his proceedings in a
Our last dispute, which had a most unlooked-for consequence,
turned on the refitting of condemned ships. He had bought a
miserable hulk, and came, rubbing his hands, to inform me she
was already on the slip, under a new name, to be repaired.
When first I had heard of this industry I suppose I scarcely
comprehended; but much discussion had sharpened my
faculties, and now my brow became heavy.
"I can be no party to that, Pinkerton," said I.
He leaped like a man shot. "What next?" he cried. "What ails
you, anyway? You seem to me to dislike everything that's
"This ship has been condemned by Lloyd's agent," said I.
"But I tell you it's a deal. The ship's in splendid condition;
there's next to nothing wrong with her but the garboard streak
and the sternpost. I tell you Lloyd's is a ring like everybody
else; only it's an English ring, and that's what deceives you. If
it was American, you would be crying it down all day. It's
Anglomania, common Anglomania," he cried, with growing
"I will not make money by risking men's lives," was my
"Great Caesar! isn't all speculation a risk? Isn't the fairest kind
of shipowning to risk men's lives? And mining--how's that for
risk? And look at the elevator business--there's danger, if you
like! Didn't I take my risk when I bought her? She might have
been too far gone; and where would I have been? Loudon," he
cried, "I tell you the truth: you're too full of refinement for this
"I condemn you out of your own lips," I replied. "'The fairest
kind of shipowning,' says you. If you please, let us only do the
fairest kind of business."
The shot told; the Irrepressible was silenced; and I profited by
the chance to pour in a broadside of another sort. He was all
sunk in money-getting, I pointed out; he never dreamed of
anything but dollars. Where were all his generous, progressive
sentiments? Where was his culture? I asked. And where was
the American Type?
"It's true, Loudon," he cried, striding up and down the room,
and wildly scouring at his hair. "You're perfectly right. I'm
becoming materialised. O, what a thing to have to say, what a
confession to make! Materialised! Me! Loudon, this must go
on no longer. You've been a loyal friend to me once more; give
me your hand!--you've saved me again. I must do something to
rouse the spiritual side; something desperate; study something,
something dry and tough. What shall it be? Theology?
Algebra? What's Algebra?"
"It's dry and tough enough," said I; "a squared + 2ab + b
"It's stimulating, though?" he inquired.
I told him I believed so, and that it was considered fortifying to
"Then that's the thing for me. I'll study Algebra," he concluded.
The next day, by application to one of his type-writing women,
he got word of a young lady, one Miss Mamie McBride, who
was willing and able to conduct him in these bloomless
meadows; and, her circumstances being lean, and terms
consequently moderate, he and Mamie were soon in agreement
for two lessons in the week. He took fire with unexampled
rapidity; he seemed unable to tear himself away from the
symbolic art; an hour's lesson occupied the whole evening; and
the original two was soon increased to four, and then to five. I
bade him beware of female blandishments. "The first thing you
know, you'll be falling in love with the algebraist," said I.
"Don't say it even in jest," he cried. "She's a lady I revere. I
could no more lay a hand upon her than I could upon a spirit.
Loudon, I don't believe God ever made a purer-minded
Which appeared to me too fervent to be reassuring.
Meanwhile I had been long expostulating with my friend upon
a different matter. "I'm the fifth wheel," I kept telling him.
"For any use I am, I might as well be in Senegambia. The
letters you give me to attend to might be answered by a sucking
child. And I tell you what it is, Pinkerton: either you've got to
find me some employment, or I'll have to start in and find it for
This I said with a corner of my eye in the usual quarter, toward
the arts, little dreaming what destiny was to provide.
"I've got it, Loudon," Pinkerton at last replied. "Got the idea on
the Potrero cars. Found I hadn't a pencil, borrowed one from
the conductor, and figured on it roughly all the way in town. I
saw it was the thing at last; gives you a real show. All your
talents and accomplishments come in. Here's a sketch
advertisement. Just run your eye over it. "Sun, Ozone, and
Music! PINKERTON'S HEBDOMADARY PICNICS!"
(That's a good, catching phrase, "hebdomadary," though it's
hard to say. I made a note of it when I was looking in the
dictionary how to spell hectagonal. 'Well, you're a boss word,'
I said. 'Before you're very much older, I'll have you in type as
long as yourself.' And here it is, you see.) 'Five dollars a head,
and ladies free. MONSTER OLIO OF ATTRACTIONS.'
(How does that strike you?) 'Free luncheon under the
greenwood tree. Dance on the elastic sward. Home again in
the Bright Evening Hours. Manager and Honorary Steward, H.
Loudon Dodd, Esq., the well-known connoisseur.'"
Singular how a man runs from Scylla to Charybdis! I was so
intent on securing the disappearance of a single epithet that I
accepted the rest of the advertisement and all that it involved
without discussion. So it befell that the words "well-known
connoisseur" were deleted; but that H. Loudon Dodd became
manager and honorary steward of Pinkerton's Hebdomadary
Picnics, soon shortened, by popular consent, to the Dromedary.
By eight o'clock, any Sunday morning, I was to be observed by
an admiring public on the wharf. The garb and attributes of
sacrifice consisted of a black frock coat, rosetted, its pockets
bulging with sweetmeats and inferior cigars, trousers of light
blue, a silk hat like a reflector, and a varnished wand. A
goodly steamer guarded my one flank, panting and throbbing,
flags fluttering fore and aft of her, illustrative of the Dromedary
and patriotism. My other flank was covered by the ticket-
office, strongly held by a trusty character of the Scots
persuasion, rosetted like his superior and smoking a cigar to
mark the occasion festive. At half-past, having assured myself
that all was well with the free luncheons, I lit a cigar myself,
and awaited the strains of the "Pioneer Band." I had never to
wait long--they were German and punctual--and by a few
minutes after the half-hour, I would hear them booming down
street with a long military roll of drums, some score of
gratuitous asses prancing at the head in bearskin hats and
buckskin aprons, and conspicuous with resplendent axes. The
band, of course, we paid for; but so strong is the San
Franciscan passion for public masquerade, that the asses (as I
say) were all gratuitous, pranced for the love of it, and cost us
nothing but their luncheon.
The musicians formed up in the bows of my steamer, and
struck into a skittish polka; the asses mounted guard upon the
gangway and the ticket-office; and presently after, in family
parties of father, mother, and children, in the form of duplicate
lovers or in that of solitary youth, the public began to descend
upon us by the carful at a time; four to six hundred perhaps,
with a strong German flavour, and all merry as children. When
these had been shepherded on board, and the inevitable belated
two or three had gained the deck amidst the cheering of the
public, the hawser was cast off, and we plunged into the bay.
And now behold the honorary steward in hour of duty and
glory; see me circulate amid crowd, radiating affability and
laughter, liberal with my sweetmeats and cigars. I say
unblushing things to hobbledehoy girls, tell shy young persons
this is the married people's boat, roguishly ask the abstracted if
they are thinking of their sweethearts, offer Paterfamilias a
cigar, am struck with the beauty and grow curious about the
age of mamma's youngest who (I assure her gaily) will be a
man before his mother; or perhaps it may occur to me, from the
sensible expression of her face, that she is a person of good
counsel, and I ask her earnestly if she knows any particularly
pleasant place on the Saucelito or San Rafael coast, for the
scene of our picnic is always supposed to be uncertain. The
next moment I am back at my giddy badinage with the young
ladies, wakening laughter as I go, and leaving in my wake
applausive comments of "Isn't Mr. Dodd a funny gentleman?"
and "O, I think he's just too nice!"
An hour having passed in this airy manner, I start upon my
rounds afresh, with a bag full of coloured tickets, all with pins
attached, and all with legible inscriptions: "Old Germany,"
"California," "True Love," "Old Fogies," "La Belle France,"
"Green Erin," "The Land of Cakes," "Washington," "Blue Jay,"
"Robin Red-Breast,"--twenty of each denomination; for when it
comes to the luncheon, we sit down by twenties. These are
distributed with anxious tact--for, indeed, this is the most
delicate part of my functions--but outwardly with reckless
unconcern, amidst the gayest flutter and confusion; and are
immediately after sported upon hats and bonnets, to the
extreme diffusion of cordiality, total strangers hailing each
other by "the number of their mess"--so we humorously name
it--and the deck ringing with cries of, "Here, all Blue Jays to
the rescue!" or, "I say, am I alone in this blame' ship? Ain't
there no more Californians?"
By this time we are drawing near to the appointed spot. I
mount upon the bridge, the observed of all observers.
"Captain," I say, in clear, emphatic tones, heard far and wide,
"the majority of the company appear to be in favour of the little
cove beyond One Tree Point."
"All right, Mr. Dodd," responds the captain, heartily; "all one to
me. I am not exactly sure of the place you mean; but just you
stay here and pilot me."
I do, pointing with my wand. I do pilot him, to the
inexpressible entertainment of the picnic; for I am (why should
I deny it?) the popular man. We slow down off the mouth of a
grassy valley, watered by a brook, and set in pines and
redwoods. The anchor is let go; the boats are lowered, two of
them already packed with the materials of an impromptu bar;
and the Pioneer Band, accompanied by the resplendent asses,
fill the other, and move shoreward to the inviting strains of
Buffalo Gals, won't you come out to-night? It is a part of our
programme that one of the asses shall, from sheer clumsiness,
in the course of this embarkation, drop a dummy axe into the
water, whereupon the mirth of the picnic can hardly be
assuaged. Upon one occasion, the dummy axe floated, and the
laugh turned rather the wrong way.
In from ten to twenty minutes the boats are along-side again,
the messes are marshalled separately on the deck, and the
picnic goes ashore, to find the band and the impromptu bar
awaiting them. Then come the hampers, which are piled upon
the beach, and surrounded by a stern guard of stalwart asses,
axe on shoulder. It is here I take my place, note-book in hand,
under a banner bearing the legend, "Come here for hampers."
Each hamper contains a complete outfit for a separate twenty,
cold provender, plates, glasses, knives, forks, and spoons: an
agonized printed appeal from the fevered pen of Pinkerton,
pasted on the inside of the lid, beseeches that care be taken of
the glass and silver. Beer, wine, and lemonade are flowing
already from the bar, and the various clans of twenty file away