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Title: A Book About Myself
Author: Dreiser, Theodore
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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A BOOK ABOUT MYSELF


[Illustration]


------------------------------------------------------------------------
           BOOKS BY

       THEODORE DREISER

    SISTER CARRIE
    JENNIE GERHARDT
    THE FINANCIER
    THE TITAN
    THE GENIUS
    A TRAVELER AT FORTY
    A HOOSIER HOLIDAY
    PLAYS OF THE NATURAL AND SUPERNATURAL
    THE HAND OF THE POTTER
    FREE AND OTHER STORIES
    TWELVE MEN
    HEY RUB-A-DUB-DUB
    A BOOK ABOUT MYSELF

------------------------------------------------------------------------


A BOOK ABOUT MYSELF

THEODORE DREISER



Boni and Liveright
Publishers      New York

Copyright, 1922, by
Boni and Liveright, Inc.
——————
All rights reserved

First edition      November, 1922
Second edition      December, 1922

Printed in the United States of America


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                          A BOOK ABOUT MYSELF



------------------------------------------------------------------------


                          A BOOK ABOUT MYSELF



                               CHAPTER I


DURING the year 1890 I had been formulating my first dim notion as to
what it was I wanted to do in life. For two years and more I had been
reading Eugene Field’s “Sharps and Flats,” a column he wrote daily for
the Chicago _Daily News_, and through this, the various phases of life
which he suggested in a humorous though at times romantic way, I was
beginning to suspect, vaguely at first, that I wanted to write, possibly
something like that. Nothing else that I had so far read—novels, plays,
poems, histories—gave me quite the same feeling for constructive thought
as did the matter of his daily notes, poems, and aphorisms, which were
of Chicago principally, whereas nearly all others dealt with foreign
scenes and people.

But this comment on local life here and now, these trenchant bits on
local street scenes, institutions, characters, functions, all moved me
as nothing hitherto had. To me Chicago at this time seethed with a
peculiarly human or realistic atmosphere. It is given to some cities, as
to some lands, to suggest romance, and to me Chicago did that hourly. It
sang, I thought, and in spite of what I deemed my various troubles—small
enough as I now see them—I was singing with it. These seemingly drear
neighborhoods through which I walked each day, doing collecting for an
easy-payment furniture company, these ponderous regions of large homes
where new-wealthy packers and manufacturers dwelt, these curiously
foreign neighborhoods of almost all nationalities; and, lastly, that
great downtown area, surrounded on two sides by the river, on the east
by the lake, and on the south by railroad yards and stations, the whole
set with these new tall buildings, the wonder of the western world,
fascinated me. Chicago was so young, so blithe, so new, I thought.
Florence in its best days must have been something like this to young
Florentines, or Venice to the young Venetians.

Here was a city which had no traditions but was making them, and this
was the very thing that every one seemed to understand and rejoice in.
Chicago was like no other city in the world, so said they all. Chicago
would outstrip every other American city, New York included, and become
the first of all American, if not European or world, cities.... This
dream many hundreds of thousands of its citizens held dear. Chicago
would be first in wealth, first in beauty, first in art achievement. A
great World’s Fair was even then being planned that would bring people
from all over the world. The Auditorium, the new Great Northern Hotel,
the amazing (for its day) Masonic Temple twenty-two stories high, a
score of public institutions, depots, theaters and the like, were being
constructed. It is something wonderful to witness a world metropolis
springing up under one’s very eyes, and this is what was happening here
before me.

Nosing about the city in an inquiring way and dreaming half-formed
dreams of one and another thing I would like to do, it finally came to
me, dimly, like a bean that strains at its enveloping shell, that I
would like to write of these things. It would be interesting, so I
thought, to describe a place like Goose Island in the Chicago River, a
mucky and neglected realm then covered with shanties made of upturned
boats sawed in two, and yet which seemed to me the height of the
picturesque; also a building like the Auditorium or the Masonic Temple,
that vast wall of masonry twenty-two stories high and at that time
actually the largest building in the world; or a seething pit like that
of the Board of Trade, which I had once visited and which astonished and
fascinated me as much as anything ever had. That roaring, yelling,
screaming whirlpool of life! And then the lake, with its pure white
sails and its blue water; the Chicago River, with its black, oily water,
its tall grain elevators and black coal pockets; the great railroad
yards, covering miles and miles of space with their cars.

How wonderful it all was! As I walked from place to place collecting I
began betimes to improvise rhythmic, vaguely formulated word-pictures or
rhapsodies anent these same and many other things—free verse, I suppose
we should call it now—which concerned everything and nothing but somehow
expressed the seething poetry of my soul and this thing to me. Indeed I
was crazy with life, a little demented or frenzied with romance and
hope. I wanted to sing, to dance, to eat, to love. My word-dreams and
maunderings concerned my day, my age, poverty, hope, beauty, which I
mouthed to myself, chanting aloud at times. Sometimes, because on a
number of occasions I had heard the Reverend Frank W. Gunsaulus and his
like spout rocket-like sputterings on the subjects of life and religion,
I would orate, pleading great causes as I went. I imagined myself a
great orator with thousands of people before me, my gestures and
enunciation and thought perfect, poetic, and all my hearers moved to
tears or demonstrations of wild delight.

After a time I ventured to commit some of these things to paper,
scarcely knowing what they were, and in a fever for self-advancement I
bundled them up and sent them to Eugene Field. In his column and
elsewhere I had read about geniuses being occasionally discovered by
some chance composition or work noted by one in authority. I waited for
a time, with great interest but no vast depression, to see what my fate
would be. But no word came and in time I realized that they must have
been very bad and had been dropped into the nearest waste basket. But
this did not give me pause nor grieve me. I seethed to express myself. I
bubbled. I dreamed. And I had a singing feeling, now that I had done
this much, that some day I should really write and be very famous into
the bargain.

But how? How? My feeling was that I ought to get into newspaper work,
and yet this feeling was so nebulous that I thought it would never come
to pass. I saw mention in the papers of reporters calling to find out
this, or being sent to do that, and so the idea of becoming a reporter
gradually formulated itself in my mind, though how I was to get such a
place I had not the slightest idea. Perhaps reporters had to have a
special training of some kind; maybe they had to begin as clerks behind
a counter, and this made me very somber, for those glowing business
offices always seemed so far removed from anything to which I could
aspire. Most of them were ornate, floreate, with onyx or chalcedony wall
trimmings, flambeaux of bronze or copper on the walls, imitation
mother-of-pearl lights in the ceilings—in short, all the gorgeousness of
a sultan’s court brought to the outer counter where people subscribed or
paid for ads. Because the newspapers were always dealing with signs and
wonders, great functions, great commercial schemes, great tragedies and
pleasures, I began to conceive of them as wonderlands in which all
concerned were prosperous and happy. I painted reporters and newspaper
men generally as receiving fabulous salaries, being sent on the most
urgent and interesting missions. I think I confused, inextricably,
reporters with ambassadors and prominent men generally. Their lives were
laid among great people, the rich, the famous, the powerful; and because
of their position and facility of expression and mental force they were
received everywhere as equals. Think of me, new, young, poor, being
received in that way!

Imagine then my intense delight one day, when, scanning the “Help
Wanted: Male” columns of the Chicago _Herald_, I encountered an
advertisement which ran (in substance):

    Wanted: A number of bright young men to assist in the business
    department during the Christmas holidays. Promotion possible.
    Apply to Business Manager between 9 and 10 a.m.

“Here,” I thought as I read it, “is just the thing I am looking for.
Here is this great paper, one of the most prosperous in Chicago, and
here is an opening for me. If I can only get this my fortune is made. I
shall rise rapidly.” I conceived of myself as being sent off the same
day, as it were, on some brilliant mission and returning, somehow,
covered with glory.

I hurried to the office of the _Herald_, in Washington Street near Fifth
Avenue, this same morning, and asked to see the business manager. After
a short wait I was permitted to enter the sanctuary of this great
person, who to me, because of the material splendor of the front office,
seemed to be the equal of a millionaire at least. He was tall, graceful,
dark, his full black whiskers parted aristocratically in the middle of
his chin, his eyes vague pools of subtlety. “See what a wonderful thing
it is to be connected with the newspaper business!” I told myself.

“I saw your ad in this morning’s paper,” I said hopefully.

“Yes, I did want a half dozen young men,” he replied, beaming upon me
reassuringly, “but I think I have nearly enough. Most of the young men
that come here seem to think they are to be connected with the _Herald_
direct, but the fact is we want them only for clerks in our free
Christmas gift bureau. They have to judge whether or not the applicants
are impostors and keep people from imposing on the paper. The work will
only be for a week or ten days, but you will probably earn ten or twelve
dollars in that time——” My heart sank. “After the first of the year, if
you take it, you may come around to see me. I may have something for
you.”

When he spoke of the free Christmas gift bureau I vaguely understood
what he meant. For weeks past, the _Herald_ had been conducting a
campaign for gifts for the poorest children of the city. It had been
importuning the rich and the moderately comfortable to give, through the
medium of its scheme, which was a bureau for the free distribution of
all such things as could be gathered via cash or direct donation of
supplies: toys, clothing, even food, for children.

“But I wanted to become a reporter if I could,” I suggested.

“Well,” he said, with a wave of his hand, “this is as good a way as any
other. When this is over I may be able to introduce you to our city
editor.” The title, “city editor,” mystified and intrigued me. It
sounded so big and significant.

This offer was far from what I anticipated, but I took it joyfully. Thus
to step from one job to another, however brief, and one with such
prospects, seemed the greatest luck in the world. For by now I was
nearly hypochondriacal on the subjects of poverty, loneliness, the want
of the creature comforts and pleasures of life. The mere thought of
having enough to eat and to wear and to do had something of paradise
about it. Some previous long and fruitless searches for work had marked
me with a horror of being without it.

I bustled about to the _Herald’s_ Christmas Annex, as it was called, a
building standing in Fifth Avenue between Madison and Monroe, and
reported to a brisk underling in charge of the doling out of these
pittances to the poor. Without a word he put me behind the single long
counter which ran across the front of the room and over which were
handled all those toys and Christmas pleasure pieces which a loud
tomtoming concerning the dire need of the poor and the proper Christmas
spirit had produced.

Life certainly offers some amusing paradoxes at times, and that with
that gay insouciance which life alone can muster and achieve when it is
at its worst anachronistically. Here was I, a victim of what Socialists
would look upon as wage slavery and economic robbery, quite as worthy, I
am sure, of gifts as any other, and yet lined up with fifteen or twenty
other economic victims, ragamuffin souls like myself, all out of jobs,
many of them out at elbows, and all of them doling out gifts from
eight-thirty in the morning until eleven and twelve at night to people
no worse off than themselves.

I wish you might have seen this chamber as I saw it for eight or nine
days just preceding and including Christmas day itself. (Yes; we worked
from eight a.m. to five-thirty p.m. on Christmas day, and very glad to
get the money, thank you.) There poured in here from the day the bureau
opened, which was the morning I called, and until it closed Christmas
night, as diverse an assortment of alleged poverty-stricken souls as one
would want to see. I do not say that many of them were not deserving; I
am willing to believe that most of them were; but, deserving or no, they
were still worthy of all they received here. Indeed when I think of the
many who came miles, carrying slips of paper on which had been listed,
as per the advice of this paper, all they wished Santa Claus to bring
them or their children, and then recall that, for all their pains in
having their minister or doctor or the _Herald_ itself visé their
request, they received only a fraction of what they sought, I am
inclined to think that all were even more deserving than their reward
indicated.

For the whole scheme, as I soon found in talking with others and seeing
for myself how it worked, was most loosely managed. Endless varieties of
toys and comforts had been talked about in the paper, but only a few of
the things promised, or vaguely indicated, were here to give—for the
very good reason that no one would give them for nothing to the
_Herald_. Nor had any sensible plan been devised for checking up either
the gifts given or the persons who had received them, and so the same
person, as some of these recipients soon discovered, could come over and
over, bearing different lists of toys, and get them, or at least a part
of them, until some clerk with a better eye for faces than another would
chance to recognize the offender and point him or her out. Jews, the
fox-like Slavic type of course, and the poor Irish, were the worst
offenders in this respect. The _Herald_ was supposed to have kept all
applications written by children to Santa Claus, but it had not done so,
and so hundreds claimed that they had written letters and received no
answer. At the end of the second or third day before Christmas it was
found necessary, because of the confusion and uncertainty, to throw the
doors wide open and give to all and sundry who looked worthy of whatever
was left or “handy,” we, the ragamuffin clerks, being the judges.

And now the clerks themselves, seeing that no records were kept and how
without plan the whole thing was, notified poor relatives and friends,
and these descended upon us with baskets, expecting candy, turkeys,
suits of clothing and the like, but receiving instead only toy wagons,
toy stoves, baby brooms, Noah’s Arks, story books—the shabbiest mess of
cheap things one could imagine. For the newspaper, true to that canon of
commerce which demands the most for the least, the greatest show for the
least money, had gathered all the odds and ends and left-overs of toy
bargain sales and had dumped them into the large lofts above, to be
doled out as best we could. We could not give a much-desired article to
any one person because, supposing it were there, which was rarely the
case, we could not get at it or find it; yet later another person might
apply and receive the very thing the other had wanted.

And we clerks, going out to lunch or dinner (save the mark!), would seek
some scrubby little restaurant and eat ham and beans, or crullers and
coffee, or some other tasteless dish, at ten or fifteen cents per head.
Hard luck stories, comments on what a botch the _Herald_ gift bureau
was, on the strange characters that showed up—the hooded Niobes and
dusty Priams, with eyes too sunken and too dry for tears—were the order
of the day. Here I met a young newspaper man, gloomy, out at elbows, who
told me what a wretched, pathetic struggle the newspaper world
presented, but I did not believe him although he had worked in Chicago,
Denver, St. Paul.

“A poor failure,” I thought, “some one who can’t write and who now
whines and wastes his substance in riotous living when he has it!”

So much for the sympathy of the poor for the poor.

But the _Herald_ was doing very well. Daily it was filling its pages
with the splendid results of its charity, the poor relieved, the
darkling homes restored to gayety and bliss.... Can you beat it? But it
was good advertising, and that was all the _Herald_ wanted.

Hey, Rub-a-dub! Hey, Rub-a-dub-dub!


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER II


ON Christmas Eve there came to our home to spend the next two days,
which chanced to be Saturday and Sunday, Alice Kane, a friend and
fellow-clerk of one of my sisters in a department store. Because the
store kept open until ten-thirty or eleven that Christmas Eve, and my
labors at the _Herald_ office detained me until the same hour, we three
arrived at the house at nearly the same time.

I should say here that the previous year, my mother having died and the
home being in dissolution, I had ventured into the world on my own.
Several sisters, two brothers and my father were still together, but it
was a divided and somewhat colorless home at best. Our mother was gone.
I was already wondering, in great sadness, how long it could endure, for
she had made of it something as sweet as dreams. That temperament, that
charity and understanding and sympathy! We who were left were like
fledglings, trying our wings but fearful of the world. My practical
experience was slight. I was a creature of slow and uncertain response
to anything practical, having an eye single to color, romance, beauty. I
was but a half-baked poet, romancer, dreamer.

As I was hurrying upstairs to take a bath and then see what pleasures
were being arranged for the morrow, I was intercepted by my sister with
a “Hurry now and come down. I have a friend here and I want you to meet
her. She’s awful nice.”

At the mere thought of meeting a girl I brightened, for my thoughts were
always on the other sex and I was forever complaining to myself of my
lack of opportunity, and of lack of courage when I had the opportunity,
to do the one thing I most craved to do: shine as a lover. Although at
her suggestion of a girl I pretended to sniff and be superior, still I
bustled to the task of embellishing myself. On coming into the general
livingroom, where a fire was burning brightly, I beheld a pretty
dark-haired girl of medium height, smooth-cheeked and graceful, who
seemed and really was guileless, good-natured and sympathetic. For a
while after meeting her I felt stiff and awkward, for the mere presence
of so pretty a girl was sufficient to make me nervous and
self-conscious. My brother, E——, had gone off early in the evening to
join the family of some girl in whom he was interested; another brother,
A——, was out on some Christmas Eve lark with a group of
fellow-employees; so here I was alone with C—— and this stranger, doing
my best to appear gallant and clever.

I recall now the sense of sympathy and interest which I felt for this
girl from the start. It must have been clear to my sister, for before
the night was over she had explained, by way of tantalizing me, that
Miss Kane had a beau. Later I learned that Alice was an orphan adopted
by a fairly comfortable Irish couple, who loved her dearly and gave her
as many pleasures and as much liberty as their circumstances would
permit. They had made the mistake, however, of telling her that she was
only an adopted child. This gave her a sense of forlornness and a
longing for a closer and more enduring love.

Such a mild and sweet little thing she was! I never knew a more
attractive or clinging temperament. She could play the banjo and guitar.
I remember marveling at the dexterity of her fingers as they raced up
and down the frets and across the strings. She was wearing a dark green
blouse and brown corduroy skirt, with a pale brown ribbon about her
neck; her hair was parted on one side, and this gave her a sort of
maidenish masculinity. I found her looking at me slyly now and then, and
smiling at one or another of my affected remarks as though she were
pleased. I recounted the nature of the work I was doing, but
deliberately attempted to confuse it in her mind and my sister’s with
the idea that I was regularly employed by the _Herald_ as a newspaper
man and that this was merely a side task. Subsequently, out of sheer
vanity and a desire to appear more than I was, I allowed her to believe
that I was a reporter on this paper.

It was snowing. We could see great flakes fluttering about the gas lamps
outside. In the cottage of an Irish family across the street a party of
merrymakers was at play. I proposed that we go out and buy chestnuts and
popcorn and roast them, and that we make snow punch out of milk, sugar
and snow. How gay I felt, how hopeful! In a fit of great daring I took
one hand of each of my companions and ran, trying to slide with them
over the snow. Alice’s screams and laughter were disturbingly musical,
and as she ran her little feet twinkled under her skirts. At one corner,
where the stores were brightly lighted, she stopped and did a graceful
little dance under the electric light.

“Oh, if I could have a girl like this—if I could just have her!” I
thought, forgetting that I was nightly telling a Scotch girl that she
was the sweetest thing I had ever known or wanted to know.

Bedtime came, with laughter and gayety up to the last moment. Alice was
to sleep with my sister, and preceded me upstairs, saying she was going
to eat salt on New Year’s Eve so that she would dream of her coming
lover. That night I lay and thought of her, and next morning hurried
downstairs hoping to find her, but she had not come down yet. There were
Christmas stockings to be examined, of course, which brought her, but
before eight-thirty I had to leave in order to be at work at nine
o’clock. I waved them all a gay farewell and looked forward eagerly
toward evening, for she was to remain this night and the next day.

Through with my work at five-thirty, I hurried home, and then it was
that I learned—and to my great astonishment and gratification—that she
liked me. For when I arrived, dressed, as I had been all day, in my very
best, E—— and A—— were there endeavoring to entertain her, E——, my
younger brother, attempting to make love to her. His method was to press
her toe in an open foolish way, which because of the jealousy it waked
in me seemed to me out of the depths of dullness. From the moment I
entered I fancied that Alice had been waiting for me. Her winning smile
as I entered reassured me, and yet she was very quiet when I was near,
gazing romantically into the fire.

During the evening I studied her, admiring every detail of her dress,
which was a bit different from that of the day before and more
attractive. She seemed infinitely sweet, and I flattered myself that I
was preferred over my two brothers. During the evening, we two being
left together for some reason, she arose and went into the large front
room and standing before one of the three large windows looked out in
silence on the homelike scene that our neighborhood presented. The snow
had ceased and a full moon was brightening everything. The little
cottages and flat-buildings nearby glowed romantically through their
drawn blinds, a red-ribboned Christmas wreath in every window. I pumped
up my courage to an unusual point and, heart in mouth, followed and
stood beside her. It was a great effort on my part.

She pressed her nose to the pane and then breathed on it, making a misty
screen between herself and the outside upon which she wrote my initials,
rubbed them out, then breathed on the window again and wrote her own.
Her face was like a small wax flower in the moonlight. I had drawn so
close, moved by her romantic call, that my body almost touched hers.
Then I slipped an arm about her waist and was about to kiss her when I
heard my sister’s voice:

“Now, Al and Theo, you come back!”

“We must go,” she said shamefacedly, and as she started I ventured to
touch her hand. She looked at me and smiled, and we went back to the
other room. I waited eagerly for other solitary moments.

Because the festivities were too general and inclusive there was no
other opportunity that evening, but the next morning, church claiming
some and sleep others, there was a half-hour or more in which I was
alone with her in the front room, looking over the family album. I
realized that by now she was as much drawn to me as I to her, and that,
as in the case of my Scotch maid, I was master if I chose so to be. I
was so wrought up in the face of this opportunity, however, that I
scarcely had courage to do that which I earnestly believed I could do.
As we stood over the album looking at the pictures I toyed first with
the strings of her apron and then later, finding no opposition, allowed
my hand to rest gently at her waist. Still no sign of opposition or even
consciousness. I thrilled from head to toe. Then I closed my arm gently
about her waist, and when it became noticeably tight she looked up and
smiled.

“You’d better watch out,” she said. “Some one may come.”

“Do you like me a little?” I pleaded, almost choking.

“I think so. I think you’re very nice, anyhow. But you mustn’t,” she
said. “Some one may come in,” and as I drew her to me she pretended to
resist, maneuvering her cheek against my mouth as she pulled away.

She was just in time, for C—— came into the back parlor and said: “Oh,
there you are! I wondered where you were.”

“I was just looking over your album,” Alice said.

“Yes,” I added, “I was showing it to her.”

“Oh yes,” laughed my sister sarcastically. “You and Al—I know what you
two were trying to do. You!” she exclaimed, giving me a push. “And Al,
the silly! She has a beau already!”

She laughed and went off, but I, hugely satisfied with myself, swaggered
into the adjoining room. Beau or no beau, Alice belonged to me. Youthful
vanity was swelling my chest. I was more of a personage for having had
it once more proved to me that I was not unattractive to girls.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER III


WHEN I asked Alice when I should see her again she suggested the
following Tuesday or Thursday, asking me not to say anything to C——. I
had not been calling on her more than a week or two before she confessed
that there was another suitor, a telegraph operator to whom she was
engaged and who was still calling on her regularly. When she came to our
house to spend Christmas, she said, it was with no intention of seeking
a serious flirtation, though in order not to embarrass the sense of
opportunity we boys might feel she had taken off her engagement ring.
Also, she confessed to me, she never wore it at the store, for the
reason that it would create talk and make it seem that she might leave
soon, when she was by no means sure that she would. In short, she had
become engaged thus early without being certain that she was in love.

Never were happier hours than those I spent with her, though at the time
I was in that state of unrest and change which afflicts most youths who
are endeavoring to discover what they want to do in life. On Christmas
day my job was gone and the task of finding another was before me, but
this did not seem so grim now. I felt more confident. True, the manager
of the _Herald_ had told me to call after the first of the year, and I
did so, but only to find that his suggestion of something important to
come later had been merely a ruse to secure eager and industrious
service for his bureau. When I told him I wanted to become a reporter,
he said: “But, you see, I have nothing whatsoever to do with that. You
must see the managing editor on the fourth floor.”

To say this to me was about the same as to say: “You must see God.”
Nevertheless I made my way to that floor, but at that hour of the
morning, I found no one at all. Another day, going at three, so complete
was my ignorance of newspaper hours, I found only a few uncommunicative
individuals at widely scattered desks in a room labeled “City Room.” One
of these, after I had asked him how one secured a place as a reporter,
looked at me quizzically and said: “You want to see the city editor. He
isn’t here now. The best times to see him are at noon and six. That’s
the only time he gives out assignments.”

“Aha!” I thought. “‘Assignments’—so that’s what reportorial work is
called! And I must come at either twelve or six.” So I bustled away, to
return at six, for I felt that I must get work in this great and
fascinating field. When I came at six and was directed to a man who bent
over a desk and was evidently very much concerned about something, he
exclaimed: “No vacancies. Nothing open. Sorry,” and turned away.

So I went out crestfallen and more overawed than ever. Who was I to
attempt to venture into such a wonderland as this—I, a mere collector by
trade? I doubt if any one ever explored the mouth of a cave with more
feeling of uncertainty. It was all so new, so wonderful, so mysterious.
I looked at the polished doors and marble floors of this new and
handsome newspaper building with such a feeling as might have possessed
an Ethiopian slave examining the walls and the doors of the temple of
Solomon. How wonderful it must be to work in such a place as this! How
shrewd and wise must be the men whom I saw working here, able and
successful and comfortable! How great and interesting the work they did!
Today they were here, writing at one of these fine desks; tomorrow they
would be away on some important mission somewhere, taking a train,
riding in a Pullman car, entering some great home or office and
interviewing some important citizen. And when they returned they were
congratulated upon having discovered some interesting fact or story on
which, having reported to their city editor or managing editor, or
having written it out, they were permitted to retire in comfort with
more compliments. Then they resorted to an excellent hotel or
restaurant, to refresh themselves among interested and interesting
friends before retiring to rest. Some such hodge-podge as this filled my
immature brain.

Despite the discouraging reception of my first overture, I visited other
newspaper offices, only to find the same, and even colder, conditions.
The offices in most cases were by no means so grand, but the atmosphere
was equally chill, and the city editor was a difficult man to approach.
Often I was stopped by an office boy who reported, when I said I was
looking for work, no vacancies. When I got in at all, nearly all the
city editors merely gave me a quick glance and said: “No vacancies.” I
began to feel that the newspaper world must be controlled by a secret
cult or order until one lithe bony specimen with a pointed green shade
over his eyes and dusty red hair looked at me much as an eagle might
look at a pouter pigeon, and asked:

“Ever worked on a paper before?”

“No, sir.”

“How do you know you can write?”

“I don’t; but I think I could learn.”

“Learn? Learn? We haven’t time to teach anybody here! You better try one
of the little papers—a trade paper, maybe, until you learn how—then come
back,” and he walked off.

This gave me at least a definite idea as to how I might begin, but just
the same it did not get me a position.

Meanwhile, looking here and there and not finding anything, I decided,
since I had had experience as a collector and must live while I was
making my way into journalism, to return to this work and see if I might
not in the meantime get a place as a reporter.

Having been previously employed by an easy-payment instalment house, I
now sought out another, the Corbin Company, in Lake Street, not very far
from the office of the firm for which I had previously worked. From this
firm, having been hard pressed for a winter overcoat the preceding fall,
I had abstracted or held out twenty-five dollars, intending to restore
it. But before I had been able to manage that a slack up in the work
occurred, due to the fact that wandering street agents sold less in
winter than in summer, and I was laid off and had to confess that I was
short in my account.

The manager and owner, who had seemed to take a fancy to me, said
nothing other than that I was making a mistake, taking the path that led
to social hell. I do not recall that he even requested that the money be
returned. But I was so nervous that I was convinced that some day,
unless I returned the money, I should be arrested, and to avoid this I
had written him a letter after leaving promising that I would pay up. He
never even bothered to answer the letter, and I believe that if I had
returned in the spring, paid the twenty-five dollars and asked for work
he would have taken me on again. But I had no such thought in mind. I
held myself disgraced forever and only wished to get clear of this sort
of work. It was a vulture game at best, selling trash to the ignorant
for twelve and fourteen times its value. Now that I was out of it I
hated to return. I feared that the first thing my proposed employer
would do would be to inquire of my previous employer, and that being
informed of my stealing he would refuse to employ me.

With fear and trembling I inquired of the firm in Lake Street and was
told that there was a place awaiting some one—“the right party.” The
manager wanted to know if I could give a bond for three hundred dollars;
they had just had one collector arrested for stealing sixty dollars. I
told him I thought I could and decided to explain the proposition to my
father and obtain his advice since I knew little about how a bond was
secured. When I learned that the bonding company investigated one’s
past, however, I was terrorized. My father, an honest, worthy and
defiant German, on being told that a bond was required, scouted the idea
with much vehemence. Why should any one want a bond from me? he demanded
to know. Hadn’t I worked for Mr. M—— in the same line? Couldn’t they go
there and find out? At thought of M—— I shook, and, rather than have an
investigation, dropped the whole matter, deciding not to go near the
place again.

But the manager, taken by my guileless look, I presume, called one
evening at our house. He had taken a fancy to me, he said; I looked to
be honest and industrious; he liked the neighborhood I lived in. He
proposed that I should go to one of the local bonding companies and get
a three hundred dollar bond for ten dollars a year, his company paying
for the bond out of my first week’s salary, which was to be only twelve
dollars to start with. This promised to involve explaining about M——,
but I decided to go to the bonding company and refer only to two other
men for whom I had worked and see what would happen. For the rest, I
proposed to say that school and college life had filled my years before
this. If trouble came over M—— I planned to run away.

But, to my astonishment and delight, my ruse worked admirably. The
following Sunday afternoon my new manager called and asked me to report
the following morning for work.

Oh, those singing days in the streets and parks and show-places of
Chicago, those hours when in bright or thick lowery weather I tramped
the highways and byways dreaming chaotic dreams. I had all my afternoons
to myself after one or two o’clock. The speed with which I worked and
could walk would soon get me over the list of my customers, and then I
was free to go where I chose. Spring was coming. I was only nineteen.
Life was all before me, and the feel of plenty of money in my pocket,
even if it did not belong to me, was comforting. And then youth,
youth—that lilt and song in one’s very blood! I felt as if I were
walking on tinted clouds, among the highlands of the dawn.

How shall I do justice to this period, which for perfection of spirit,
ease of soul, was the very best I had so far known? In the first place,
because of months of exercise in the open air, my physical condition was
good. I was certain to get somewhere in the newspaper world, or so I
thought. The condition of our family was better than it had ever been in
my time, for we four younger children were working steadily. Our home
life, in spite of bickerings among several of my brothers and sisters,
was still pleasing enough. Altogether we were prospering, and my father
was looking forward to a day when all family debts would be paid and the
soul of my mother, as well as his own when it passed over, could be
freed from too prolonged torments in purgatory! For, as a Catholic, he
believed that until all one’s full debts here on earth were paid one’s
soul was held in durance on the other side.

For myself, life was at the topmost toss. I was like some bird poised on
a high twig, teetering and fluttering and ready for flight. Again, I was
like those flying hawks and buzzards that ride so gracefully on still
wings above a summer landscape, seeing all the wonders of the world
below. Again, I was like a song that sings itself, the spirit of happy
music that by some freak of creation is able to rejoice in its own
harmonies and rhythms. Joy was ever before me, the sense of some great
adventure lurking just around the corner.

How I loved the tonic note of even the grinding wheels of the trucks and
cars, the clang and clatter of cable and electric lines, the surge of
vehicles in every street! The palls of heavy manufacturing smoke that
hung low over the city like impending hurricanes; the storms of wintry
snow or sleety rain; the glow of yellow lights in little shops at
evening, mile after mile, where people were stirring and bustling over
potatoes, flour, cabbages—all these things were the substance of songs,
paintings, poems. I liked the sections where the women of the town were
still, at noon, sleeping off the debauches of the preceding night, or at
night were preparing for the gaudy make-believes of their midnight day.
I liked those sections crowded with great black factories, stock-yards,
steel works, Pullman yards, where in the midst of Plutonian stress and
clang men mixed or forged or joined or prepared those delicacies,
pleasures and perfections for which the world buys and sells itself.
Life was at its best here, its promise the most glittering. I liked
those raw neighborhoods where in small, unpainted, tumbledown shanties
set in grassless, can-strewn yards drunken and lecherous slatterns and
brawlers were to be found mooning about in a hell of their own. And, for
contrast, I liked those areas of great mansions set upon the great
streets of the city in spacious lawns, where liveried servants stood by
doors and carriages turned in at spacious gates and under heavy
porte-cochères.

I think I grasped Chicago in its larger material if not in its more
complicated mental aspects. Its bad was so deliciously bad, its good so
very good, keen and succulent, reckless, inconsequential, pretentious,
hopeful, eager, new. People cursed or raved or snarled—the more
fortunate among them, but they were never heavy or dull or asleep. In
some neighborhoods the rancidity of dirt, or the stark icy bleakness of
poverty, fairly shouted, but they were never still, decaying pools of
misery. On wide bleak stretches of prairie swept by whipping winds one
could find men who were tanning dog or cat hides but their wives were
buying yellow plush albums or red silk-shaded lamps or blue and green
rugs on time, as I could personally testify. Churches with gaudy altars
and services rose out of mucky masses of shanties and gas-tanks; saloons
with glistening bars of colored glass and mirrors stood as the centers
and clubs of drear, bleak masses of huts. There were vice districts and
wealth districts hung with every enticing luxury that the wit of a
commonplace or conventional mind could suggest. Such was Chicago.

In the vice districts I had been paid for shabby rugs and lamps, all
shamelessly overpriced, by plump naked girls striding from bed to
dresser to get a purse, and then offered certain favors for a dollar, or
its equivalent—a credit on the contract slip. In the more exclusive
neighborhoods I was sent around to a side entrance by comfortably
dressed women who were too proud or too sly to have their neighbors know
that they were buying on time. Black negresses leered at me from behind
shuttered windows at noon; plump wives drew me into risqué situations on
sight; death-bereaved weepers mourned over their late lost in my
presence—and postponed paying me. But I liked the life. I was crazy
about it. Chicago was like a great orchestra in a tumult of noble
harmonies. I was like a guest at a feast, eating and drinking in a
delirium of ecstasy.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER IV


BUT if I was wrought up by the varying aspects of the city, I was
equally wrought up by the delights of love, which came for the first
time fully with the arrival of Alice. Was I in love with her? No, as I
understand myself now. I doubt that I have ever been in love with any
one, or with anything save life as a whole. Twice or thrice I have
developed stirring passions but always there was a voice or thought
within which seemed to say over and over, like a bell at sea: “What does
it matter? Beauty is eternal.... Beauty will come again!” But this
thing, _life_, this picture of effort, this colorful panorama of hope
and joy and despair—that _did_ matter! Beauty, like a tinkling bell, the
tintings of the dawn, the whispering of gentle winds and waters in
summer days and Arcadian places, was in everything and everywhere.
Indeed the appeal of this local life was its relationship to eternal
perfect beauty. That it should go! That never again, after a few years,
might I see it more! That love should pass! That youth should pass! That
in due time I should stand old and grizzled, contemplating with
age-filmed eyes joys and wonders whose sting and color I could no longer
feel or even remember—out on it for a damned tragedy and a mirthless
joke!

Alice proved to be in love with me. She lived in a two-flat frame house
in what was then the far middle-south section of the city, a region
about Fifty-first and Halsted streets. Her foster-father was a railroad
watchman, and had saved up a few thousand dollars by years of toil. This
little apartment represented his expenditures plus her taste, such as it
was: a simple little place, with red plush curtains shielding a pair of
folding-doors which separated two large rooms front and back. There were
lace curtains and white shades at the windows, a piano (a most soothing
luxury for me to contemplate), and then store furniture: a red velvet
settee, a red plush rocker, several other new badly designed chairs.

Quaint little soul! How cheery and dreamful and pulsating with life she
was when I met her! Her suitor, as I afterwards came to know, was a
phlegmatic man of thirty-five, who had found in her all that he desired
and was eager to marry her, as he eventually did. He was wont to call
regularly on Wednesday and Sunday evenings, taking her occasionally to a
theater or to dinner downtown. When I arrived on the scene I must have
disrupted all this, for after a time, because I manifested some
opposition, leaving her no choice indeed, Wednesdays and Sundays became
my evenings, and any others that I chose. Regardless of my numerous and
no doubt asinine defects, she was in love with me and willing to accept
me on my own terms.

Yes, Alice saw something she wanted and thought she could hold. She
wanted to unite with me for this little span of existence, to go with me
hand in hand into the ultimate nothingness. I think she was a poet in
her way, but voiceless. When I called the first night she sat primly for
a little while on one of her red chairs near the window, while I
occupied a rocker. I had hung up my coat and hat with a flourish and had
stood about for a while examining everything, with the purpose of
estimating it and her. It all seemed cozy and pleasing enough and,
curiously, I felt more at ease on this my first visit than I ever did at
my Scotch maid’s home. There her thrifty, cautious, religious though
genial and well-meaning mother, her irritable blind uncle and her more
attractive young sister disturbed and tended to alienate me. Here, for
weeks and weeks, I never saw Alice’s foster-parents. When finally I was
introduced to them, they grated on me not at all. This first night she
played a little on her piano, then on her banjo, and because she seemed
especially charming to me I went over and stood behind her chair,
deciding to take her face in my hands and kiss her. Perhaps a touch of
remorse and in consequence a bit of indecision now swayed her, for she
got up before I could do it. On the instant my assurance became less and
yet my mood hardened, for I thought she was trifling with me. After the
previous Sunday it seemed to me that she could do no less than permit me
to embrace her. I was deciding that the evening was about to be a
failure, when she came up behind me and said: “Don’t you think it’s
rather nice across there, between those houses?”

Over the way a gap between peaked-roofed houses revealed a long stretch
of prairie, now covered with snow, gas lamps flickering in orderly rows,
an occasional frame house glowing in the distance.

“Yes,” I admitted moodily.

“This is a funny neighborhood,” she ventured. “People are always moving
in and out in that row of houses over there.”

“Are they?” I said, not very much interested now that I felt myself
defeated. There was a silence and then she laid one hand on my arm.

“You’re not mad at me, Dorse?” she asked, using a name which my sister
had given me.

The sound of it on her lips, soft and pleading, moved me.

“Oh, no,” I replied loftily. “Why should I be?”

“I was thinking that maybe I oughtn’t to be doing this. There’s been
some one else up to now, you know.”

“Yes.”

“I guess I don’t care for him any more or I wouldn’t be doing what I
am.”

“I thought you cared for me. Why did you invite me down here?”

“Oh, Dorse, I do,” she said, placing both her hands on my folded arms
and looking up into my face with a kind of tenseness. “I know it isn’t
right but I can’t help it. You have such nice hair and eyes, and you’re
so tall. Do you care for me at all?”

“Yes,” I said, smiling cynically over my victory. “I think you’re
beautiful.” I smoothed her cheek with one hand while I held her about
the waist with the other.

We went over to the red settee and I took her in my arms and held her
and kissed her mouth and eyes and neck. She clung to me and laughed and
told me bits about her work and her pompous floor-walker and her social
companions, and even her fiancé. She danced for me when I asked her,
doing a running overstep clog, sidewise to and fro, her skirts lifted to
her shoetops. She was sweetly feminine, in no wise aggressive or bold. I
stayed until nearly one in the morning. I had nine or ten miles to go by
owl cars, arriving home at nearly three; but at this time I was not
working and so my time was my own.

The thing that troubled me was what my Scotch girl would think if she
found out (which she never would), and how I could extricate myself from
a situation which, now that I had Alice, was not as interesting as it
had been.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER V


AS spring approached this affair moved on apace. The work of the Corbin
Company was no harder than that of the Lovell Company, and I had more
time to myself. Because of an ingrowing sense of my personal importance
and because I thought it such a wonderful thing to be a newspaper man
and so very much less to be a collector, I lied to Alice as to what I
was doing. When should I be through with collecting and begin reporting?
I was eager to know all about music, painting, sculpture, literature,
and to be in those places where life is at its best. I was regretful now
that I had not made better use of my school and college days, and so in
my free hours I read, visited the art gallery and library, went to
theaters and concerts. The free intellectual churches, or ethical
schools, were my favorite places on Sunday mornings. I would sometimes
take Alice or my Scotch girl to the Theodore Thomas concerts, which were
just beginning at the Auditorium, or to see the best plays and actors:
Booth, Barrett, Modjeska, Fannie Davenport, Mary Anderson, Joseph
Jefferson, Nat Goodwin. Thinking of myself as a man with a future, I
assumed a kind of cavalier attitude toward my two sweethearts, finally
breaking with N—— on the pretext that she was stubborn and superior and
did not love me, whereas I really wanted to assume privileges which she,
with her conventional notions, could not permit and which I was not
generous enough not to want. As for Alice she was perfectly willing to
yield, with a view, I have always thought, to moving me to marry her.
But being deeply touched by her very obvious charm, I did nothing.

Once my work was done of an afternoon, I loitered over many things
waiting for evening to come, when I should see Alice again. Usually I
read or visited a gallery or some park. Alice was intensely sweet to me.
Her eyes were so soft, so liquid, so unprotesting and so unresenting.
She was usually gay, with at times a suggestion of hidden melancholy. At
night, in that great world of life which is the business heart of
Chicago I used to wait for her, and together, once we had found each
other in the crowds, we would make our way to the great railway station
at the end of Dearborn Street, where a tall clock-tower held a single
yellow clock-face. If it chanced to be Tuesday or Thursday I would go
home with her. On other nights she would sometimes stay down to dine
with me at some inexpensive place.

I never knew until toward the end of the following summer, when things
were breaking up for me in Chicago and seemingly greater opportunities
were calling me elsewhere, that during all this time she had really
never relinquished her relationship with my predecessor, fearing my
instability perhaps. By what necessary lies and innocent subterfuges she
had held him against the time when I might not care for her any more I
know not. The thing has poignance now. Was she unfaithful? I do not
think so. At any rate she was tender, clinging and in need of true
affection. She would take my hand and hold it under her arm or against
her heart and talk of the little things of the day: the strutting
customers and managers, the condescending women of social pretensions,
the other girls, who sometimes spied upon or traitorously betrayed each
other. Usually her stories were of amusing things, for she had no heart
for bitter contention. There was a note of melancholy running all
through her relationship with me, however, for I think she saw the
unrest and uncertainty of my point of view. Already my mind’s eye was
scanning a farther horizon, in which neither she nor any other woman had
a vital part. Fame, applause, power, possibly, these were luring me.
Once she said to me, her eyes looking longingly into mine:

“Do you really love me, Dorse?”

“Don’t you think I do?” I replied evasively, and yet saying to myself
that I truly cared for her in my fashion, which was true.

“Yes, I think you do, in your way,” she said, and the correct
interpretation shocked me. I saw myself a stormy petrel hanging over the
yellowish-black waves of life and never really resting anywhere. I could
not; my mind would not let me. I saw too much, felt too much, knew too
much. What was I, what any one, but a small bit of seaweed on an endless
sea, flotsam, jetsam, being moved hither and thither—by what
subterranean tides?

Oh, Alice, dead or living, eternally sleeping or eternally waking,
listen to these few true words! You were beautiful to me. My heart was
hungry. I wanted youth, I wanted beauty, I wanted sweetness, I wanted a
tender smile, wide eyes, loveliness—all these you had and gave.

Peace to you! I do not ask as much for myself.

My determination to leave the Corbin Company was associated with other
changes equally important and of much more emotional interest. Our home
life, now that my mother was gone, was most unsatisfactory. What I took
to be the airs and plotting domination of my sister M——, toward whom I
had never borne any real affection, had become unbearable. I disliked
her very much, for though she was no better than the rest of us, or so I
thought at the time, she was nevertheless inclined to dogmatize as to
the duty of others. Here she was, married yet living at home and
traveling at such times and to such places as suited her husband’s
convenience, obtaining from him scarcely enough to maintain herself in
the state to which she thought she was entitled, contributing only a
small portion to the upkeep of the home, and yet setting herself and her
husband up as superiors whose exemplary social manners might well be
copied by all. Her whole manner from morning to night, day in and day
out, was one of superiority. Or, so I thought at the time. “I am Mrs. G.
A——, if you please,” she seemed to say. “G—— is doing this. I am going
to do so-and-so. It can scarcely be expected that we, in our high state,
should have much to do with the rest of you.”

Yet whenever A—— was in or near Chicago he made our home his abiding
place. Two of the best rooms on the second floor were set aside for his
and M——’s use. The most stirring preparations were made whenever he was
coming, the house swept, flowers bought, extra cooking done and what
not; the moment he had gone things fell to their natural and rather
careless pace. M—— retired to her rooms and was scarcely seen for days.
T——, another sister, who despised her heartily, would sulk, and when she
thought the burden of family work was being shouldered on to her would
do nothing at all. My father was left to go through a routine of duties
such as fire-building, care of the furnace, marketing, which should have
facilitated the housework but which in these quarreling conditions made
it seem as if he were being put upon. C——, another sister, who was
anything but a peacemaker, added fuel to the flames by criticizing the
drift of things to the younger members: A——, E—— and myself.

The thing that had turned me definitely against M—— followed a letter
which my brother Paul once sent to my mother, enclosing a check for ten
dollars and intended especially for her. Because it was sent to her
personally she wanted to keep it secret from the others, and to do this
she sent me to the general postoffice, on which it was drawn, with her
signature filled in and myself designated as the proper recipient. I got
the money and returned it to her, but either because of her increasing
illness or because she still wanted to keep it a secret, when Paul
mentioned it in another letter she said she had not received it. Then
she died and the matter of the money came up. It was proved by inquiry
at the postoffice that the money had been paid to me. I confirmed this
and asserted, which was true, that I had given it to mother. M—— alone,
of all the family, felt called upon to question this. She visited an
inspector at the general postoffice (a friend of A——’s by the way) and
persuaded him to make inquiry, with a view no doubt to frightening me.
The result of this was a formal letter asking me to call at his office.
When I went and found that he was charging me with the detention of this
money and demanding its return on pain of my being sent to prison, I
blazed of course and told him to go to the devil. When I reached home I
was furious. I called out my sister M—— and told her—well, many things.
For weeks and even months I had a burning desire to strike her, although
nothing more was ever done or said concerning it. For over fifteen years
the memory of this one thing divided us completely, but after that,
having risen, as I thought, to superior interests and viewpoints, I
condescended to become friendly.

The first half of 1891 was the period of my greatest bitterness toward
her, and in consequence, when my sister C—— came to me with her
complaints and charges we brewed between us a kind of revolution based
primarily on our opposition to M—— and her airs, but secondarily on the
inadequate distribution of the family means and the inability of the
different sisters to agree upon the details of the home management.
According to C——, who was most bitter in her charges, both M—— and T——
were lazy and indifferent. As a matter of fact, I cared as little for
C—— and her woes as I did for any of the others. But the thought of this
home, dominated by M—— and T—— and supported by us younger ones, with
father as a kind of pleading watchdog of the treasury, weeping in his
beard and moaning over the general recklessness of our lives, was too
much.

Indeed this matter of money, not idleness or domination, was the crux of
the whole situation, for if there had been plenty of money, or if each
of us could have retained his own earnings, there would have been little
grieving. C—— was jealous of M—— and T——, and of the means with which
their marital relations supplied them, and although she was earning
eight dollars a week she felt that the three or four which she
contributed to the household were far too much. A——, who earned ten and
contributed five, had no complaint to make, and E——, who earned nine and
supplied four-and-a-half, also had nothing to say. I was earning twelve,
later fourteen, and gave only six, and very often I begrudged much of
this. So between us C—— and I brewed a revolution, which ended
unsatisfactorily for us all.

Late in March, a crisis came because of a bitter quarrel that sprung up
between M—— and C——. C—— and I now proposed, with the aid of A—— and E——
if we could get it, either to drive M—— from the house and take charge
ourselves, or rent a small apartment somewhere, pool our funds and set
up a rival home of our own, leaving this one to subsist as best it
might. It was a hard and cold thing to plan, and I still wonder why I
shared in it; but then it seemed plausible enough.

However that may be, this revolutionary program was worked out to a
definite conclusion. With C—— as the whip and planner and myself as
general executive, a small apartment only a few blocks from our home was
fixed upon, prices of furniture on time studied, cost of food, light,
entertainment gone into. C——, in her eagerness to bring her rage to a
cataclysmic conclusion, volunteered to do the cooking and housekeeping
alone, and still work downtown as before. If each contributed five
dollars a week, as we said, we would have a fund of over eighty dollars
a month, which should house and feed us and buy furniture on the
instalment plan. A—— was consulted as to this and refused, saying, which
was the decent thing to say and characteristic of him, that we ought to
stay here and keep the home together for father’s sake, he being old and
feeble. E——, always a lover of adventure and eager to share in any new
thing, agreed to go with us. We had to revise our program, but even with
only sixty dollars a month as a general fund we thought we could get
along.

And so we three, C—— being the spokesman, had the cheek to announce to
my father that either M—— should leave and allow us to run the house as
we wished or we would leave. The ultimatum was not given in any such
direct way: charges and counter charges were first made; long arguments
and pleadings were indulged in by one side and the other. Finally,
seeing that there was no hope of forcing M—— to leave, C—— announced
that she was going, alone or with others. I said I would follow. E——
said he was coming—and there you were. I never saw a man more distressed
than my father, one more harassed by what he knew to be the final
dissolution of the family. He pleaded, but his pleas fell on youthful,
inconsiderate ears. I went and rented the flat, had the gas turned on
and some furniture installed; and then, toward the end of March, in
blustery weather, we moved.

Never was a man more distrait than my father during these last two or
three days of our stay. Having completed the details, C——, E—— and I
were busy marching to and fro at spare moments, carrying clothes, books,
pictures and the like to the new home. There were open squabbles now
between C—— and M—— as to the possession of certain things, but these
were finally adjusted without blows. At last we were ready to leave, and
then came our last adieux to my father and A——. When my turn came I
marched out with a hard, cheery, independent look on my face, but I was
really heavy with a sense of my unfairness and brutality. A—— and my
father were the two I really preferred. My father was so old and frail.

“Well,” he said with his German accent when I came to say good-by,
“you’re going, are you? I’m sorry, Dorsch. I done the best I could. The
girls, they won’t ever agree, it seems. I try, but it don’t seem to do
any good. I have prayed these last few days.... I hope you don’t ever
feel sorry. It’s C—— who stirs up all these things.”

He waved his hands in a kind of despairing way and after some pointless
and insincere phrases I went out. The cold March winds were blowing from
the West, and it was raw, blowy, sloppy, gray. Tomorrow it would be
brighter, but tonight——


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER VI


AS April advanced I left the Corbin Company, determined to improve my
condition. I was tired of collecting—the same districts, the same
excuses, innocences, subterfuges. By degrees I had come to feel a great
contempt for the average mind. So many people were so low, so shifty, so
dirty, so nondescript. They were food for dreams; little more. Owing to
my experience with the manager of the Lovell Company in the matter of
taking what did not belong to me I had become very cautious, and this
meant that I should be compelled to live from week to week on my
miserable twelve dollars.

In addition, home life had become a horrible burden. The house was badly
kept and the meals were wretched. Being of a quarrelsome, fault-finding
disposition and not having M—— or T—— to fight with, C—— now turned her
attentions to E—— and myself. We did not do this and that; the burden of
the work was left to her. By degrees I grew into a kind of servant.
Being told one April Friday of some needs that I must supply, and having
decided that I could not endure either this abode or my present work, I
took my fate in my hands and the next day resigned my job, having in my
possession sixty-five dollars. I was now determined, come what might,
never to take another job except one of reporting unless I was actually
driven to it by starvation, and in this mood I came home and announced
that I had lost my position and that this “home” would therefore have to
be given up. And how glad I was! Now I should be rid of this dull flat,
which was so colorless and burdensome. As I see it now, my sister
sensibly enough from her point of view, perhaps, was figuring that E——
and I, as dutiful brothers, should support her while she spent all her
money on clothes. I came to dislike her almost as much as I did M——, and
told her gladly this same day that we could not live here any longer. In
consequence the furniture company was notified to come and get the
furniture. Our lease of the place being only from month to month, it was
easy enough to depart at once. E—— and I were to share a room at the de
G——s for a dollar and a half a week each, such meals as I ate there to
be paid for at the rate of twenty-five cents each.

Then and there, as I have since noted with a kind of fatalistic
curiosity, the last phase of my rather troublesome youth began. Up to
and even including this last move to Taylor Street I had been intimately
identified, in spirit at least, with our family and its concentrated
home life. During my mother’s life, of course, I had felt that wherever
she was was home; after her death it was the house in which she had
lived that held me, quite as much as it was my father and those of us
who remained together to keep up in some manner the family spirit. When
the spell of this began to lessen, owing to bitter recrimination and the
continuous development of individuality in all of us, this new branch
home established by three of us seemed something of the old place and
spiritually allied to it; but when it fell, and the old home broke up at
about the same time, I felt completely adrift.

What was I to do with myself now? I asked. Where go? Here I was, soon
(in three months) to be twenty-one years old, and yet without trade or
profession, a sort of nondescript dreamer without the power to earn a
decent living and yet with all the tastes and proclivities of one
destined to an independent fortune. My eyes were constantly fixed on
people in positions far above my own. Those who interested me most were
bankers, millionaires, artists, executives, leaders, the real rulers of
the world. Just at this time the nation was being thrown into its
quadrennial ferment, the presidential election. The newspapers were
publishing reams upon reams of information and comment. David B. Hill,
then governor of New York, Grover Cleveland of New York, Thomas B.
Hendricks of Indiana, and others were being widely and favorably
discussed by the Democratic party, whose convention was to be held here
in Chicago the coming June. Among the Republicans, Benjamin Harrison of
Indiana, James G. Blaine of Maine, Thomas B. Allison of Iowa, and others
were much to the fore.

If by my devotion to minor matters I have indicated that I was not
interested in public affairs I have given an inadequate account of
myself. It is true that life at close range fascinated me, but the
general progress of Europe and America and Asia and Africa was by no
means beyond my intellectual inquiry. By now I was a reader of Emerson,
Carlyle, Macaulay, Froude, John Stuart Mill and others. The existence of
Nietzsche in Germany, Darwin, Spencer, Wallace and Tyndall in England,
and what they stood for, was in part at least within the range of my
intuition, if not my exact knowledge. In America, Washington, Jefferson,
Jackson, Lincoln, the history of the Civil War and the subsequent drift
of the nation to monopoly and so to oligarchy, were all within my
understanding and private philosophizing.

And now this national ferment in regard to political preferment and
advancement, the swelling tides of wealth and population in Chicago, the
upward soaring of names and fames, stirred me like whips and goads. I
wanted to get up—oh, how eagerly! I wanted to shake off the garments of
the commonplace in which I seemed swathed and step forth into the public
arena, where I should be seen and understood for what I was. “No common
man am I,” I was constantly saying to myself, and I would no longer be
held down to this shabby world of collecting in which I found myself.
The newspapers—the newspapers—somehow, by their intimacy with everything
that was going on in the world, seemed to be the swiftest approach to
all this of which I was dreaming. It seemed to me as if I understood
already all the processes by which they were made. Reporting, I said to
myself, must certainly be easy. Something happened—one car ran into
another; a man was shot; a fire broke out; the reporter ran to the
scene, observed or inquired the details, got the names and addresses of
those immediately concerned, and then described it all. To reassure
myself on this point I went about looking for accidents on my own
account, or imagining them, and then wrote out what I saw or imagined.
To me the result, compared with what I found in the daily papers, was
quite satisfactory. Some paper must give me a place.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER VII


PICTURE a dreamy cub of twenty-one, long, spindling, a pair of
gold-framed spectacles on his nose, his hair combed _à la pompadour_, a
new spring suit consisting of light check trousers and bright blue coat
and vest, a brown fedora hat, new yellow shoes, starting out to force
his way into the newspaper world of Chicago. At that time, although I
did not know it, Chicago was in the heyday of its newspaper prestige.
Some of the nation’s most remarkable editors, publishers and newspaper
writers were at work there: Melville E. Stone, afterward general manager
of the Associated Press; Victor F. Lawson, publisher of the _Daily
News_; Joseph Medill, editor and publisher of the _Tribune_; Eugene
Field, managing editor of the _Morning Record_; William Penn Nixon,
editor and publisher of the _Inter-Ocean_; George Ade; Finley Peter
Dunne; Brand Whitlock; and a score of others subsequently to become well
known.

Having made up my mind that I must be a newspaper man, I made straight
for the various offices at noon and at six o’clock each day to ask if
there was anything I could do. Very soon I succeeded in making my way
into the presence of the various city and managing editors of all the
papers in Chicago, with the result that they surveyed me with the
cynical fishy eye peculiar to newspaper men and financiers and told me
there was nothing.

One day in the office of the _Daily News_ a tall, shambling,
awkward-looking man in a brown flannel shirt, without coat or waistcoat,
suspenders down, was pointed out to me by an office boy who saw him
slipping past the city editorial door.

“Wanta know who dat is?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied humbly, grateful even for the attention of office boys.

“Well, dat’s Eugene Field. Heard o’ him, ain’tcha?”

“Sure,” I said, recalling the bundle of incoherent MS. which I had once
thrust upon him. I surveyed his retreating figure with envy and some
nervousness, fearing he might psychically detect that I was the
perpetrator of that unsolicited slush and abuse me then and there.

In spite of my energy, manifested for one solid week between the hours
of twelve and two at noon and five-thirty and seven at night I got
nothing. Indeed it seemed to me as I went about these newspaper offices
that they were the strangest, coldest, most haphazard and impractical of
places. Gone was that fine ambassadorial quality with which a few months
before I had invested them. These rooms, as I now saw, were crowded with
commonplace desks and lamps, the floors strewn with newspapers. Office
boys and hirelings gazed at you in the most unfriendly manner, asked
what you wanted and insisted that there was nothing—they who knew
nothing. By office boys I was told to come after one or two in the
afternoon or after seven at night, when all assignments had been given
out, and when I did so I was told that there was nothing and would be
nothing. I began to feel desperate.

Just about this time I had an inspiration. I determined that, instead of
trying to see all of the editors each day and missing most of them at
the vital hour, I would select one paper and see if in some way I could
not worm myself into the good graces of its editor. I now had the very
sensible notion that a small paper would probably receive me with more
consideration than one of the great ones, and out of them all chose the
_Daily Globe_, a struggling affair financed by one of the Chicago
politicians for political purposes only.

You have perhaps seen a homeless cat hang about a doorstep for days and
days meowing to be taken in: that was I. The door in this case was a
side door and opened upon an alley. Inside was a large, bare room filled
with a few rows of tables set end to end, with a railing across the
northern one-fourth, behind which sat the city editor, the dramatic and
sporting editors, and one editorial writer. Outside this railing, near
the one window, sat a large, fleshy gelatinous, round-faced round-headed
young man wearing gold-rimmed spectacles. He had a hard, keen, cynical
eye, and at first glance seemed to be most vitally opposed to me and
everybody else. As it turned out, he was the _Daily Globe’s_
copy-reader. Nothing was said to me at first as I sat in my far corner
waiting for something to turn up. By degrees some of the reporters began
to talk to me, thinking I was a member of the staff, which eased my
position a little during this time. I noticed that as soon as all the
reporters had gone the city editor became most genial with the one
editorial writer, who sat next him, and the two often went off together
for a bite.

Parlous and yet delicious hours! Although I felt all the time as though
I were on the edge of some great change, still no one seemed to want me.
The city editor, when I approached after all the others had gone, would
shake his head and say: “Nothing today. There’s not a thing in sight,”
but not roughly or harshly, and therein lay my hope. So here I would
sit, reading the various papers or trying to write out something I had
seen. I was always on the alert for some accident that I might report to
this city editor in the hope that he had not seen it, but I encountered
nothing.

The ways of advancement are strange, so often purely accidental. I did
not know it, but my mere sitting here in this fashion eventually proved
a card in my favor. A number of the employed reporters, of whom there
were eight or nine (the best papers carried from twenty to thirty),
seeing me sit about from twelve to two and thinking I was employed here
also, struck up occasional genial and enlightening conversations with
me. Reporters rarely know the details of staff arrangements or changes.
Some of them, finding that I was only seeking work, ignored me; others
gave me a bit of advice. Why didn’t I see Selig of the _Tribune_, or
Herbst of the _Herald_? It was rumored that staff changes were to be
made there. One youth learning that I had never written a line for a
newspaper, suggested that I go to the editor of the City Press
Association or the United Press, where the most inexperienced beginners
were put to work at the rate of eight dollars a week. This did not suit
me at all. I felt that I could write.

Finally, however, my mere sitting about in this fashion brought me into
contact with that copy-reader I have described, John Maxwell, who
remarked one day out of mere curiosity:

“Are you doing anything special for the _Globe_?”

“No,” I replied.

“Just looking for work?”

“Yes.”

“Ever work on any paper?”

“No.”

“How do you know you can write?”

“I don’t. I just feel that I can. I want to see if I can’t get a chance
to try.”

He looked at me, curiously, amusedly, cynically.

“Don’t you ever go around to the other papers?”

“Yes, after I find out there’s nothing here.”

He smiled. “How long have you been coming here like this?”

“Two weeks.”

“Every day?”

“Every day.”

He laughed now, a genial, rolling, fat laugh.

“Why do you pick the _Globe_? Don’t you know it’s the poorest paper in
Chicago?”

“That’s why I pick it,” I replied innocently. “I thought I might get a
chance here.”

“Oh, you did!” he laughed. “Well, you may be right at that. Hang around.
You may get something. Now I’ll tell you something: this National
Democratic Convention will open in June. They’ll have to take on a few
new men here then. I can’t see why they shouldn’t give you a chance as
well as anybody else. But it’s a hell of a business to be wanting to get
into,” he added.

He began taking off his coat and waistcoat, rolling up his sleeves,
sharpening his blue pencils and taking up stacks of copy. The while I
merely stared at him. Every now and then he would look at me through his
round glasses as though I were some strange animal. I grew restless and
went out. But after that he greeted me each day in a friendly way, and
because he seemed inclined to talk I stayed and talked with him.

What it was that finally drew us together in a minor bond of friendship
I have never been able to discover. I am sure he considered me of little
intellectual or reportorial import and yet also I gathered that he liked
me a little. He seemed to take a fancy to me from the moment of our
first conversation and included me in what I might call the _Globe_
family spirit. He was interested in politics, literature, and the
newspaper life of Chicago. Bit by bit he informed me as to the various
editors, who were the most successful newspaper men, how some reporters
did police, some politics, and some just general news. From him I
learned that every paper carried a sporting editor, a society editor, a
dramatic editor, a political man. There were managing editors, Sunday
editors, news editors, city editors, copy-readers and editorial writers,
all of whom seemed to me marvelous—men of the very greatest import. And
they earned—which was more amazing still—salaries ranging from eighteen
to thirty-five and even sixty and seventy dollars a week. From him I
learned that this newspaper world was a seething maelstrom in which
clever men struggled and fought as elsewhere; that some rose and many
fell; that there was a roving element among newspaper men that drifted
from city to city, many drinking themselves out of countenance, others
settling down somewhere into some fortunate berth. Before long he told
me that only recently he had been copy-reader on the Chicago _Times_ but
due to what he characterized as “office politics,” a term the meaning of
which I in no wise grasped, he had been jockeyed out of his place. He
seemed to think that by and large newspaper men while interesting and in
some cases able, were tricky and shifty and above all, disturbingly and
almost heartlessly inconsiderate of each other. Being young and
inexperienced this point of view made no impression on me whatsoever. If
I thought anything I thought that he must be wrong, or that, at any
rate, this heartlessness would never trouble me in any way, being the
live and industrious person that I was.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER VIII


IT made me happy to know that whether or not I was taken on I had at
least achieved one friend at court. Maxwell advised me to stick.

“You’ll get on,” he said a day or two later. “I believe you’ve got the
stuff in you. Maybe I can help you. You’ll probably be like every other
damned newspaper man once you get a start: an ingrate; but I’ll help you
just the same. Hang around. That convention will begin in three or four
weeks now. I’ll speak a good word for you, unless you tie up with some
other paper before then.”

And to my astonishment really, he was as good as his word. He must have
spoken to the city editor soon after this, for the latter asked me what
I had been doing and told me to hang around in case something should
turn up.

But before a newspaper story appeared for me to do a new situation arose
which tied me up closer with this prospect than I had hoped for. The
lone editorial writer previously mentioned, a friend and intimate of the
city editor, had just completed a small work of fiction which he and the
city editor in combination had had privately printed, and which they
were very eager to sell. It was, as I recall it, very badly done, an
immature imitation of _Tom Sawyer_ without any real charm or human
interest. The author himself, Mr. Gissel, was a picayune yellow-haired
person. He spent all his working hours, as I came to know, writing those
biased, envenomed and bedeviling editorials which are required by purely
partisan journals. I gathered as much from conversations that were
openly carried on before me between himself and the city editor, the
managing editor and an individual who I later learned was the political
man. They were “out” as I heard the managing editor say, one day “to
get” some one—on orders from some individual of whom at that time I knew
nothing, and Mr. Gissel was your true henchman or editorial mercenary, a
“peanut” or “squeak” writer, penning what he was ordered to pen. Once I
understood I despised him but at first he amused me though I could not
like him. Whenever he had concocted some particularly malicious or
defaming line as I learned in time, he would get up and dance about,
chortling and cackling in a disconcerting way. So for the first time I
began to see how party councils and party tendencies were manufactured
or twisted or belied, and it still further reduced my estimate of
humanity. Men, as I was beginning to find—all of us—were small,
irritable, nasty in their struggle for existence. This little editor,
for instance, was not interested in the Democratic party (which this
paper was supposed to represent), or indeed in party principles of any
kind. He did not believe what he wrote, but, receiving forty dollars a
week, he was anxious to make a workmanlike job of it. Just at this time
he was engaged in throwing mud at the national Republican
administration, the mayor and the governor, as well as various local
politicians, whom the owner of the paper wished him to attack.

What a pitiful thing journalism or our alleged “free press” was, I then
and there began to gather—dimly enough at first I must admit. What a
shabby compound of tricky back-room councils, public professions, all
looking to public favors and fames which should lead again to public
contracts and financial emoluments! Journalism, like politics, as I was
now soon to see, was a slough of muck in which men were raking busily
and filthily for what their wretched rakes might uncover in the way of
financial, social, political returns. I looked at this dingy office and
then at this little yellow-haired rat of an editor one afternoon as he
worked, and it came to me what a desperately subtle and shifty thing
life was. Here he was, this little runt, scribbling busily, and above
him were strong, dark, secretive men, never appearing publicly perhaps
but paying him his little salary privately, dribbling it down to him
through a publisher and an editor-in-chief and a managing editor, so
that he might be kept busy misconstruing, lying, intellectually
cheating.

But the plan he had in regard to his book: The graduating class of the
Hyde Park High School, of which he had been a member a few years before,
had numbered about three hundred students. Of these two hundred were
girls, one hundred and fifty of whom he claimed to have known
personally. One afternoon as I was preparing to leave after all the
assignments had been given out, the city editor called me over and, with
the help of this scheming little editorial writer, began to explain to
me a plan by which, if I carried it out faithfully, I could connect
myself with the _Daily Globe_ as a reporter. I was to take a certain
list of names and addresses and as many copies of _The Adventures of
Harry Munn_, or some such name, as I could carry and visit each of these
quondam schoolmates of Mr. Gissel at their homes, where I was to recall
to their minds that he was an old schoolmate of theirs, that this his
first book related to scenes with which they were all familiar, and then
persuade them if possible to buy a copy for one dollar. My reward for
this was to be ten cents a copy on all copies sold, and in addition (and
this was the real bait) I was to have a tryout on the _Globe_ as a
reporter at fifteen dollars a week if I succeeded in selling one hundred
and twenty copies within the next week or so.

I took the list and gathered up an armful of the thin cloth-covered
volumes, fired by the desire thus to make certain my entrance into the
newspaper world. I cannot say that I was very much pleased with my
mission, but my necessity or aspiration was so great that I was glad to
do it just the same. I was nervous and shamefaced as I approached the
first home on my list, and I suffered aches and pains in my vanity and
my sense of the fitness of things. The only salve I could find in the
whole thing was that Mr. Gissel actually knew these people and that I
could say I came personally from him as a friend and fellow-member of
the _Globe_ staff. It was a thin subterfuge, but apparently it went down
with a few of those pretty unsophisticated girls. The majority of them
lived in the best residences of the south side, some of them mansions of
the truly rich whose democratic parents had insisted upon sending their
children to the local high school. In each case, upon inquiring for a
girl, with the remark that I came from Mr. Gissel of the _Globe_, I was
received in the parlor or reception-room and told to wait. Presently the
girl would come bustling in and listen to my tactful story, smiling
contemptuously perhaps at my shabby mission or opening her eyes in
surprise or curiosity.

“Mr. Gissel? Mr. Gissel?” said one girl inquiringly. “Why, I don’t
recall any such person——” and she retired, leaving me to make my way out
as best I might.

Another exclaimed: “Harry Gissel! Has that little snip written a book?
The nerve—to send you around to sell his book! Why do you do it? I will
take one, because I am curious to see the kind of thing he has done, but
I’ll wager right now it’s as silly as he is. He’s invented some scheme
to get you to do this because he knows he couldn’t sell the book in any
other way.”

Others remembered him and seemed to like him; others bought the book
only because he was a member of their class. Some struck up a genial
conversation with me.

In spite of my distress at having to do this work there were
compensations. It gave me a last fleeting picture of that new, sunny
prosperity which was the most marked characteristic of Chicagoans of
that day, and contrasted so sharply with the scenes of poverty which I
had recently seen. In this region, for it was June, newly fledged
collegians, freshly returned from the colleges of the East and Europe,
were disporting themselves about the lawns and within the open-windowed
chambers of the houses. Traps and go-carts of many of the financially
and socially elect filled the south side streets. The lawn tennis suit,
the tennis game, the lawn party and the family croquet game were
everywhere in evidence. The new-rich and those most ambitious
financially at that time were peculiarly susceptible I think to the airs
and manners of the older and more pretentious regions of the world. They
were bent upon interpreting their new wealth in terms of luxury as they
had observed it elsewhere. Hence these strutting youths in English suits
with turned-up trousers, swagger sticks and flori-colored ties and socks
intended to suggest the spirit of London, as they imagined it to be;
hence the high-headed girls in flouncy, lacy dresses, their cheeks and
eyes bright with color, who no doubt imagined themselves to be great
ladies, and who carried themselves with an air of remote disdain. The
whole thing had the quality of a play well staged: really the houses,
the lawns, the movements of the people, their games and interests all
harmonizing after the fashion of a play. They saw this as a great end in
itself, which, perhaps, it is. To me in my life-hungry, love-hungry
state, this new-rich prosperity with its ease, its pretty women and its
effort at refinement was quite too much. It set me to riotous dreaming
and longing made me ache to lounge and pose after this same fashion.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER IX


IN due course of time, I having performed my portion of the contract, it
became the duty of the two editors to fulfill their agreement with me.
Every day for ten days I had been turning in the cash for from five to
fifteen books, thereby establishing my reputation for industry and
sobriety. Mr. Gissel was very anxious to know at the end of each day
whom I had seen and how the mention of his name was received. Instead of
telling him of the many who laughed or sniffed or bought to get rid of
me gracefully, I gave him flattering reports. Lately, by way of reward I
presume, he had taken to reading to me the cleverest passages in his
editorials. Mr. Sullivan, the city editor, confided to me one day that
he was from a small town in central Illinois not unlike the Warsaw from
which I hailed, and which I then roughly and jestingly sketched to him,
and from then on we were on fairly good terms. He dug up a number of
poems and granted me the favor of reading them. Some of them were almost
as good as similar ones by Whittier and Bryant, after whom they were
obviously modeled. Today I know them to be bad, or mediocre; then I
thought they were excellent and grieved to think that any one should be
going to make a reputation as a great poet, while I, the only real poet
extant (although I had done nothing as yet to prove it), remained
unrecognized.

I did not know until later that I might not have secured a place even
now, so numerous were the applications of clever and experienced
newspaper men, had it not been for the influence of my friend Maxwell.
For one reason or another, my errant youth perhaps, my crazy persistence
and general ignorance of things journalistic, he had become interested
in me and seemed fairly anxious to see me get a start. Out of the tail
of his eye he had been watching. When I arrived of an evening and there
was no one present he sometimes inquired what I was doing, and by
degrees, although I had been cautioned not to tell, he extracted the
whole story of Gissel’s book. I even loaned him a copy of the book,
which he read and pronounced rot, adding: “They ought to be ashamed of
themselves, sending you out on a job of this kind. You’re better than
that.”

As the end of my task drew near and I was dreading another uncertain
wait, he put in a good word for me. But even then I doubt if I should
have had a trial had it not been for the convention which was rapidly
drawing near. On the day the newspapers were beginning to chronicle the
advance arrival of various leaders from all parts of the country, I was
taken on at fifteen dollars a week, for a week or two anyhow, and
assigned to watch the committee rooms in the hotels Palmer, Grand
Pacific, Auditorium and Richelieu. There was another youth who was set
to work with me on this, and he gave me some slight instruction. Over us
was the political man, who commanded other men in different hotels and
whose presence I had only noted when the convention was nearly over.

If ever a youth was cast adrift and made to realize that he knew nothing
at all about the thing he was so eager to do, that youth was I. “Cover
the hotels for political news,” were my complete instructions, but what
the devil was political news? What did they want me to do, say, write?
At once I was thoroughly terrified by this opportunity which I had so
eagerly sought, for now that I had it I did not know how to make
anything clear.

For the first day or two or three therefore I wandered like a lost soul
about the corridors and parlor floors and “committee rooms” of these
hotels which I was supposed to cover, trying to find out where the
committee rooms were, who and what were the men in them, what they were
trying to do. No one seemed to want to tell me anything, and, as dull as
it may seem, I really could not guess. I had no clear idea of what was
meant by the word “politics” as locally used. Various country
congressmen and politicians brushed past me in a most secretive manner;
when I hailed them with the information that I was from the _Globe_ they
waved me off with: “I am only a delegate; you can’t get anything out of
me. See the chairman.” Well, what was a chairman? I didn’t know. I did
not even know that there had been lists published in all the papers, my
own included, giving the information which I was so anxiously seeking!

I had no real understanding of politics or party doings or organization.
I doubt if I knew how men came to be nominated, let alone elected. I did
not know who were the various State leaders, who the prospective
candidates, why one candidate might be preferred to another. The
machinations of such an institution as Tammany Hall, or the things
called property interests, were as yet beyond me. My mind was too much
concerned with the poetry of life to busy itself with such minor things
as politics. However, I did know that there was a bitter feud on between
David Bennett Hill, governor of New York, and Grover Cleveland,
ex-President of the United States, both candidates for nomination on the
Democratic ticket, and that the Tammany organization of New York City
was for Hill and bitterly opposed to Cleveland. I also knew that the
South was for any good Southerner as opposed to Cleveland or Hill, and
that a new element in the party was for Richard Bland, better known as
“Silver Dick,” of Missouri. I also knew by reputation many of the men
who had been in the first Cleveland administration.

Imagine a raw youth with no knowledge of the political subtleties of
America trying to gather even an inkling of what was going on! The
nation and the city were full of dark political trafficking, but of it
all I was as innocent as a baby. The bars and lobbies were full of
inconsequential spouting delegates, who drank, swore, sang and orated at
the top of their lungs. Swinging Southerners and Westerners in their
long frockcoats and wide-brimmed hats amused me. They were forever
pulling their whiskers or mustachios, drinking, smoking, talking or
looking solemn or desperate. In many cases they knew no more of what was
going on than I did. I was told to watch the movements of Benjamin Ryan
Tillman, senator from South Carolina, and report any conclusions or
rumors of conclusions as to how his delegation would vote. I had a hard
time finding where his committee was located, and where and when if ever
it deliberated, but once I identified my man I never left him. I dogged
his steps so persistently that he turned on me one afternoon as he was
going out of the Palmer House, fixed me with his one fiery eye and said:

“Young man, what do you want of me anyhow?”

“Well, you’re Senator Tillman, aren’t you?”

“Yes, sir. I’m Senator Tillman.”

“Well, I’m a reporter from the _Globe_. I’ve been told to learn what
conclusions your delegation has reached as to how it will vote.”

“You and your editor of the _Globe_ be damned!” he replied irritably.
“And I want you to quit following me wherever I go. Just now I’m going
for my laundry, and I have some rights to privacy. The committee will
decide when it’s good and ready, and it won’t tell the _Globe_ or any
other paper. Now you let me alone. Follow somebody else.”

I went back to the office the first evening at five-thirty and sat down
to write, with the wild impression in my mind that I must describe the
whole political situation not only in Chicago but in the nation. I had
no notion that there was a supervising political man who, in conjunction
with the managing editor and editor-in-chief, understood all about
current political conditions.

“The political pot,” I began exuberantly, “was already beginning to
seethe yesterday. About the lobbies and corridors of the various hotels
hundreds upon hundreds of the vanguard of American Democracy—etc, etc.”

I had not scrawled more than eight or nine pages of this mush before the
city editor, curious as to what I had discovered and wondering why I had
not reported it to him, came over and picked up the many sheets which I
had turned face down.

“No, no, no!” he exclaimed. “You mustn’t write on both sides of the
paper! Don’t you know that? For heaven’s sake. And all this stuff about
the political pot boiling is as old as the hills. Why, every country
jake paper for thousands of miles East and West has used it for years
and years. You’re not to write the general stuff. Here, Maxwell, see if
you can’t find out what Dreiser has discovered and show him what to do
with it. I haven’t got time.” And he turned me over to my
gold-spectacled mentor, who eyed me very severely. He sat down and
examined my copy with knitted brows. He had a round, meaty, cherubic
face which seemed all the more ominous because he could scowl fiercely,
and his eyes could blaze with a cold, examining, mandatory glance.

“This is awful stuff!” he said as he read the first page. “He’s quite
right. You want to try and remember that you’re not the editor of this
paper and just consider yourself a plain reporter sent out to cover some
hotels. Now where’d you go today?”

I told him.

“What’d you see?”

I described as best I could the whirling world in which I had been.

“No, no! I don’t mean that! That might be good for a book or something
but it’s not news. Did you see any particular man? Did you find out
anything in connection with any particular committee?”

I confessed that I had tried and failed.

“Very good!” he said. “You haven’t anything to write,” and he tore up my
precious nine pages and threw them into the waste basket. “You’d better
sit around here now until the city editor calls you,” he added. “He may
have something special he wants you to do. If not, watch the hotels for
celebrities—Democratic celebrities—or committee meetings, and if you
find any try to find out what’s going on. The great thing is to discover
beforehand who’s going to be nominated—see? You can’t tell from talking
to four or five people, but what you find out may help some one else to
piece out what is to happen. When you come back, see me. And unless you
get other orders, come back by eleven. And call up two or three times
between the time you go and eleven.”

Because of these specific instructions I felt somewhat encouraged,
although my first attempt at writing had been thrown into the waste
basket. I sat about until nearly seven, when I was given an address and
told to find John G. Carlisle, ex-Secretary of the Treasury, and see if
I could get an interview with him. Failing this, I was to “cover” the
Grand Pacific, Palmer House and Auditorium, and report all important
arrivals and delegations.

Even if I had secured the desired interview I am sure I should have made
an awful botch of it, but fortunately I could not get it. Only one thing
of importance developed for me during the evening, and that was the
presence of a Democratic United States Supreme Court Justice at the
Grand Pacific who, upon being intercepted by me as he was going to his
room for the night and told that I was from the _Globe_, eyed me
genially and whimsically.

“My boy,” he said, “you’re just a young new reporter, I can see that.
Otherwise you wouldn’t waste your time on me. But I like reporters: I
was one myself years ago. Now this hotel and every other is full of
leaders and statesmen discussing this question of who’s to be President.
I’m not discussing it, first of all because it wouldn’t become a Justice
of the United States Supreme Court to do so, and in the next place
because I don’t have to: my position is for life. I’m just stopping here
for one day on my way to Denver. You’d better go around to these
committee rooms and see if they can’t tell you something,” and, smiling
and laying one hand on my shoulder in a fatherly way, he dismissed me.

“My!” I thought. “What a fine thing it is to be a reporter! All I have
to do is to say I’m from the _Globe_ and even a Justice of the United
States Supreme Court is smiling and agreeable to me!”

I hurried to a phone to tell Maxwell, and he said: “He don’t count.
Write a stick of it if you want to, and I’ll look it over.”

“How much is a stick?” I asked eagerly and curiously.

“About a hundred and fifty words.”

So much for a United States Supreme Court Justice in election days.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER X


I CANNOT say that I discovered anything of import this night or the next
or the next, although I secured various interviews which, after much
wrestling with my spirit and some hard, intelligent, frank statements
from my friend, were whipped into shape for fillers.

“The trouble with you, Dreiser,” said Maxwell as I was trying to write
out what the Supreme Court Justice had said to me, “is that you haven’t
any training and you’re trying to get it now when we haven’t the time.
Over in the _Tribune_ office they have a sign which reads: WHO OR WHAT?
HOW? WHEN? WHERE? All those things have to be answered in the first
paragraph—not in the last paragraph, or the middle paragraph, but in the
first. Now come here. Gimme that stuff,” and he cut and hacked, running
thick lines of blue lead through my choicest thoughts and restating in a
line or two all that I thought required ten. A sardonic smile played
about his fat mouth, and I saw by his twinkling eyes that he felt that
it was good for me.

“News is information,” he went on as he worked. “People want it quick,
sharp, clear—do you hear? Now you probably think I’m a big stiff,
chopping up your great stuff like this, but if you live and hold this
job you’ll thank me. As a matter of fact, if it weren’t for me you
wouldn’t have this job now. Not one copy-reader out of a hundred would
take the trouble to show you,” and he looked at me with hard, cynical
and yet warm gray eyes.

I was wretched with the thought that I should be dropped once the
convention was over, and so I bustled here and there, anxious to find
something. Of a morning, from six o’clock until noon, I studied all the
papers, trying to discover what all this fanfare was about and just what
was expected of me. The one great thing to find out was who was to be
nominated and which delegations or individuals would support the
successful candidate. Where could I get the information? The third day I
talked to Maxwell about it, and as a favor he brought out a paper in
which a rough augury was made which showed that the choice lay between
David Bennett Hill and Grover Cleveland, with a third man, Senator
McEntee, as a dark horse. Southern sentiment seemed to be centering
about him, and in case no agreement could be reached by the New York
delegation as to which of its two opposing candidates it would support
their vote might be thrown to this third man.

Of course this was all very confusing to me. I did my best to get it
straight. Learning that the Tammany delegation, two thousand strong, was
to arrive from New York this same day and that the leaders were to be
quartered at the Auditorium, I made my way there, determined to obtain
an interview with no less a person than Richard Croker, who, along with
Bourke Cochran, and a hard-faced, beefy individual by the name of John
F. Carroll seemed to be the brains and mouthpiece of the Tammany
organization. In honor of their presence, the Auditorium was decorated
with flags and banners, some of them crossed with tomahawks or Indian
feathers. Above the onyx-lined bar was a huge tiger with a stiff
projecting tail which when pulled downward, as it was every few seconds
by one bartender and another, caused the _papier-mâché_ image to emit a
deep growl. This delighted the crowd, and after each growl there was
another round of drinks. Red-faced men in silk hats and long frockcoats
slapped each other on the back and bawled out their joy or threats or
prophecies.

On the first floor above the office of the hotel, were Richard Croker,
his friend and adviser, Carroll, and Bourke Cochran. They sat in the
center of a great room on a huge red plush divan, receiving and talking.

As a representative of the _Globe_, a cheap nickel star fastened to one
of the lapels of my waistcoat and concealed by my coat, my soul stirred
by being allowed to mingle in affairs of great import, I finally made my
way to the footstool of this imposing group and ventured to ask for an
interview with Croker himself. The great man, short, stocky, carefully,
almost too carefully, dressed, his face the humanized replica of that of
a tiger, looked at me in a genial, quizzical, condescending way and
said: “No interviews.” I remember the patent leather button shoes with
the gray suède tops, the heavy gold ring on one finger, and the heavy
watch-chain across his chest.

“You won’t say who is to be nominated?” I persisted nervously.

“I wish I could,” he grinned. “I wouldn’t be sitting here trying to find
out.” He smiled again and repeated my question to one of his companions.
They all looked at me with smiling condescension and I beat a swift
retreat.

Defeated though I was, I decided to write out the little scene, largely
to prove to the city editor that I had actually seen Croker and been
refused an interview.

I went down to the bar to review the scene being enacted there. While I
was standing at the bar drinking a lemonade there came a curious lull.
In the midst of it the voices of two men near me became audible as they
argued who would be nominated, Cleveland, Hill or some third man, not
the one I have mentioned. Bursting with my new political knowledge and
longing to air it, I, at the place where one of the strangers mentioned
the third man as the most likely choice, solemnly shook my head as much
as to say: “You are all wrong.”

“Well, then, who do you think?” inquired the stranger, who was short,
red-faced, intoxicated.

“Senator McEntee, of South Carolina,” I replied, feeling as though I
were stating an incontrovertible truth.

A tall, fair-complexioned, dark-haired Southerner in a wide-brimmed
white hat and flaring frockcoat paused at this moment in his hurried
passage through the room and, looking at the group, exclaimed:

“Who does me the honah to mention my name in connection with the
Presidency? I am Senator McEntee of South Carolina. No intrusion, I
hope?”

I and the two others stared in confusion.

“None whatever,” I replied with an air, thinking how interesting it was
that this man of all people should be passing through the room at this
time. “These gentlemen were saying that —— of —— would be nominated, and
I was going to say that sentiment is running more in your favor.”

“Well, now, that is most interesting, my young friend, and I’m glad to
hear you say it. It’s an honah to be even mentioned in connection with
so great an office, however small my qualifications. And who are you,
may I ask?”

“My name in Dreiser. I represent the Chicago _Globe_.”

“Oh, do you? That makes it doubly interesting. Won’t you come along with
me to my rooms for a moment? You interest me, young man, you really do.
How long have you been a reporter?”

“Oh, for nearly a year now,” I replied grandly.

“And have you ever worked for any other paper?”

“Yes; I was on the _Herald_ last fall.”

He seemed elated by his discovery. He must have been one of those
swelling nonentities flattered silly by this chance discussion of his
name in a national convention atmosphere. An older newspaper man would
have known that he had not the least chance of being seriously
considered. Somebody from the South had to be mentioned, as a
compliment, and this man was fixed upon as one least likely to prove
disturbing later.

He bustled out to a shady balcony overlooking the lake, ordered two
cocktails and wanted to know on what I based my calculation. In order to
not seem a fool I now went over my conversation with Maxwell. I spoke of
different delegations and their complexions as though these conclusions
were my own, when as a matter of fact I was quoting Maxwell verbatim. My
hearer seemed surprised at my intelligence.

“You seem to be very well informed,” he said genially, “but I know
you’re wrong. The Democratic party will never go to the South for a
candidate—not for some years anyway. Just the same, since you’ve been
good enough to champion me in this public fashion, I would like to do
something for you in return. I suppose your paper is always anxious for
advance news, and if you bring it in you get the credit. Now at this
very moment, over in the Hotel Richelieu, Mr. William C. Whitney and
some of his friends—Mr. Croker has just gone over there—are holding a
conference. He is the one man who holds the balance of power in this
convention. He represents the moneyed interests and is heart and soul
for Grover Cleveland. Now if you want a real beat you’d better go over
there and hang about. Mr. Whitney is sure to make a statement some time
today or tomorrow. See his secretary, Mr. ——, and tell him I sent you.
He will do anything for you he can.”

I thanked him, certain at last I had a real piece of news. This
conference was the most important event that would or could take place
in the whole convention. I was so excited that I wanted to jump up and
run away.

“It will keep,” he said, noting my nervousness. “No other newspaper man
knows of it yet. Nothing will be given out yet for several hours because
the conference will not be over before that time.”

“But I’d like to phone my office,” I pleaded.

“All right, but come back.”

I ran to the nearest telephone. I explained my beat to the city editor
and, anxious lest I be unable to cover it, asked him to inform the head
political man. He was all excitement at once, congratulated me and told
me to follow up this conference. Then I ran back to my senator.

“I see,” he said, “that you are a very industrious and eager young man.
I like to see that. I don’t want to say anything which will set up your
hopes too much, because things don’t always work out as one would wish,
but did any one ever suggest to you that you would make a good private
secretary?”

“No, sir,” I replied, flattered and eager.

“Well, from what I have seen here today I am inclined to think you
would. Now I don’t know that I shall be returned to the Senate after
this year—there’s a little dispute in my State—but if I am, and you want
to write me after next January, I may be able to do something for you.
I’ve seen a lot of bright young fellows come up in the newspaper
profession, and I’ve seen a lot go down. If you’re not too much attached
to it, perhaps you would like this other better.”

He smiled serenely, and I could have kissed his hands. At the same time,
if you please, I was already debating whether one so promising as myself
should leave the newspaper profession!

But even more than my good fortune at gleaning this bit of news or beat,
as it proved, I was impressed by the company I was keeping and the realm
in which I now moved as if by right—great hotels, a newspaper office
with which I was connected, this senator, these politicians, the display
of comfort and luxury on every hand. Only a little while back I was an
inexperienced, dreaming collector for an “easy-payment” company, and now
look at me! Here I sat on this grand balcony, the senator to my right, a
table between us, all the lovely panorama of the lake and Michigan Drive
below. What a rise! From now on, no doubt, I would do much better. Was I
not even now being offered the secretaryship to a senator?

In due time I left and ran to the Richelieu, but my brain was seething
with my great rise and my greater achievement in being the first to know
of and report to my paper this decisive conference. If that were true I
should certainly have discovered what my paper and all papers were most
eager to know.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER XI


WHAT the senator had told me was true. The deciding conference was on,
and I determined to hang about the corridors of the Richelieu until it
was over. The secretary, whom I found closeted with others (not
newspaper men) in a room on the second floor, was good enough to see me
when I mentioned Senator McEntee’s name, and told me to return at
six-thirty, when he was sure the conference would be over and a general
statement be issued to the press. If I wished, I might come back at
five-thirty. This dampened my joy in the thought that I had something
exclusive, though I was later cheered by the thought that I had probably
saved my paper from defeat anyhow for we were too poor to belong to the
general news service. As a matter of fact, my early information was a
cause of wonder in the office, the political man himself coming down
late in the night to find out how I had learned so soon. I spoke of my
friend Senator McEntee as though I had known him for years. The
political man merely looked at me and said: “Well, you ought to get
along in politics on one of the papers, if nowhere else.”

The capture of this one fact, as I rather felt at the time, was my
making in this newspaper office and hence in the newspaper world at
large, in so far as I ever was made.

At five-thirty that afternoon I was on hand, and, true to his word, the
secretary outlined exactly what conclusions the conference had reached.
Afterward he brought out a type-written statement and read from it such
facts as he wished me to have. Cleveland was to be nominated. Another
man, Adlai Stevenson of Illinois, of whom I had never heard, was to be
nominated for Vice-President. There were other details, so confusing
that I could scarcely grasp them, but I made some notes and flew to the
office and tried to write out all I had heard. I know now that I made a
very bad job of it, but Maxwell worked so hard and so cheerfully that he
saved me. From one source and another he confirmed or modified my
statements, wrote an intelligent introduction and turned it in.

“You’re one of the damnedest crack-brained loons I ever saw,” he said at
one place, cutting out a great slice of my stuff, “but you seem to know
how to get the news just the same, and you’re going to be able to write.
If I could just keep you under my thumb for four or five weeks I think I
could make something out of you.”

At this I ventured to lay one hand over his shoulder in an affectionate
and yet appealing way, but he looked up frowningly and said: “Cut the
gentle con work, Theodore. I know you. You’re just like all other
newspaper men, or will be: grateful when things are coming your way. If
I were out of a job or in your position you’d do just like all the
others: pass me up. I know you better than you know yourself. Life is a
God-damned stinking, treacherous game, and nine hundred and ninety-nine
men out of every thousand are bastards. I don’t know why I do this for
you,” and he cut some more of my fine writing, “but I like you. I don’t
expect to get anything back. I never do. People always trim me when I
want anything. There’s nobody home if I’m knocking. But I’m such a
God-damned fool that I like to do it. But don’t think I’m not on, or
that I’m a genial ass that can be worked by every Tom, Dick and Harry.”
And after visiting me with that fat superior smile he went on working. I
stared, nervous, restless, resentful, sorrowful, trying to justify
myself to life and to him.

“If I had a real chance,” I said, “I would soon show you.”

The convention opened its sessions the next day, and because of my
seeming cleverness I was given a front seat in the press-stand, where I
could hear all speeches, observe the crowd, trade ideas with the best
newspaper men in the city and the country. In a day, if you will believe
it, and in spite of the fact that I was getting only fifteen dollars a
week, my stock had risen so that, in this one office at least, I was
looked upon as a newspaper man of rare talent, an extraordinarily bright
boy sure to carve out a future for himself, one to be made friends with
and helped. Here in this press-stand I was now being coached by one
newspaper man and another in the intricacies of convention life. I was
introduced to two other members of our staff who were supposed to be
experienced men, both of them small, clever, practical-minded
individuals well adapted to the work in hand. One of them, Harry L.
Dunlap, followed my errant fortunes for years, securing a place through
me in St. Louis and rising finally to be the confidential adviser of one
of our Presidents, William Howard Taft—a not very remarkable President
to be adviser to at that. The other, a small brown-suited soul, Brady by
name, came into my life for a very little while and then went, I know
not where.

But this convention, how it thrilled me! To be tossed into the vortex of
national politics at a time when the country was seething over the
possible resuscitation of the old Democratic party to strength and power
was something like living. I listened to the speeches, those dully
conceived flights and word gymnastics and pyrotechnics whereby backwoods
statesmen, district leaders and personality-followers seek to foist upon
the attention of the country their own personalities as well as those of
the individuals whom they admire. Although it was generally known that
Cleveland was to be nominated (the money power of America having fixed
upon him) and it was useless to name any one else, still as many as ten
different “statesmen” great leaders, saviors were put in nomination.
Each man so mentioned was the beau ideal of a nation’s dream of a
leader, a statesman, a patriot, lover of liberty and of the people. This
in itself was a liberal education and slowly but surely opened my eyes.
I watched with amazement this love of fanfare and noise, the way in
which various delegations and individual followers loved to shout and
walk up and down waving banners and blowing horns. Different States or
cities had sent large delegations, New York a marching club two thousand
strong, all of whom had seats in this hall, and all were plainly
instructed to yell and demonstrate at the mention of a given name.

The one thing I heard which seemed rather important at the time,
beautiful, because of a man’s voice and gestures, was a speech by Bourke
Cochran, exhorting the convention to nominate his candidate, David
Bennett Hill, and save the party from defeat. Indeed his speech, until
later I heard William Jennings Bryan, seemed to me the best I had ever
heard, clear, sonorous, forcible, sensible. He had something to say and
he said it with art and seeming conviction. He had presence too, a sort
of Herculean, animal-like effrontery. He made his audience sit up and
pay attention to him, when as a matter of fact it was interested in
talking privately, one member to another. I tried to take notes of what
he was saying until one of my associates told me that the full minutes
of his speech could soon be secured from the shorthand reporters.

Being in this great hall cheek by jowl with the best of the Chicago
newspaper world thrilled me. “Now,” I said to myself, “I am truly a
newspaper man. If I can only get interesting things to write about, my
fortune is made.” At once, as the different forceful reporters of the
city were pointed out to me (George Ade, Finley Peter Dunne, “Charlie”
Seymour, Charles d’Almy), my neck swelled as does a dog’s when a rival
appears on the scene. Already, at mere sight of them, I was anxious to
try conclusions with them on some important mission and so see which of
us was the better man. Always, up to the early thirties, I was so human
as to conceive almost a deadly opposition to any one who even looked as
though he might be able to try conclusions with me in anything. At that
time, I was ready for a row, believing, now that I had got thus far,
that I was destined to become one of the greatest newspaper men that
ever lived!

But this convention brought me no additional glory. I did write a
flowery description of the thing as a whole, but only a portion of it
was used. I did get some details of committee work, which were probably
incorporated in the political man’s general summary. The next day,
Cleveland being nominated, interest fell off. Thousands packed their
bags and departed. I was used for a day or two about hotels gathering
one bit of news and another, but I could see that there was no import to
what I was doing and began to grow nervous lest I should be summarily
dropped. I spoke to Maxwell about it.

“Do you think they’ll drop me?” I asked.

“Not by a damned sight!” he replied contentiously. “You’ve earned a show
here; it’s been promised you; you’ve made good, and they ought to give
it to you. Don’t you say anything; just leave it to me. There’s going to
be a conference here tomorrow as to who’s to be dropped and who kept on,
and I’ll have my say then. You saved the day for us on that nomination
stuff, and that ought to get you a show. Leave it to me.”

The conference took place the next day and of the five men who had been
taken on to do extra work during the convention I and one other were the
only ones retained, and this at the expense of two former reporters
dropped. At that, I really believe I should have been sent off if it had
not been for Maxwell. He had been present during most of the
transactions concerning Mr. Gissel’s book and thought I deserved work on
that score alone, to say nothing of my subsequent efforts. I think he
disliked the little editorial writer very much. At any rate when this
conference began Maxwell, according to Dunlap who was there and reported
to me, sat back, a look of contented cynicism on his face not unlike
that of a fox about to devour a chicken. The names of several of the new
men were proposed as substitutes for the old ones when, not hearing mine
mentioned, he inquired:

“Well, what about Dreiser?”

“Well, what about him?” retorted Sullivan, the city editor. “He’s a good
man, but he lacks training. These other fellows are experienced.”

“I thought you and Gissel sort of agreed to give him a show if he sold
that book for you?”

“No, I didn’t,” said Sullivan. “I only promised to give him a tryout
around convention time. I’ve done that.”

“But he’s the best man on the staff today,” insisted Maxwell. “He
brought in the only piece of news worth having. He’s writing better
every day.”

He bristled, according to Dunlap, and Sullivan and Gissel, taking the
hint that the quarrel might be carried higher up or aired
inconveniently, changed their attitude completely.

“Oh, well,” said Sullivan genially, “let him come on. I’d just as lief
have him. He may pan out.”

And so on I came, at fifteen dollars a week, and thus my newspaper
career was begun in earnest.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XII


THIS change from insecurity to being an accredited newspaper man was
delightful. For a very little while, a year or so, it seemed to open up
a clear straight course which if followed energetically must lead me to
great heights. Of course I found that beginners were very badly paid.
Salaries ranged from fourteen to twenty-five dollars for reporters; and
as for those important missions about which I had always been reading,
they were not even thought of here. The best I could learn of them in
this office was that they did exist—on some papers. Young men were still
sent abroad on missions, or to the West or to Africa (as Stanley), but
they had to be men of proved merit or budding genius and connected with
papers of the greatest importance. How could one prove oneself to be a
budding genius?

Salary or no salary, however, I was now a newspaper man, with the
opportunity eventually to make a name for myself. Having broken with the
family and with my sister C——, I was now quite alone in the world and
free to go anywhere and do as I pleased. I found a front room in Ogden
Place overlooking Union Park (in which area I afterwards placed one of
my heroines). I could walk from here to the office in a little over
twenty minutes. My route lay through either Madison Street or Washington
Boulevard east to the river, and morning and night I had ample
opportunity to speculate on the rancid or out-at-elbows character of
much that I saw. Both Washington and Madison, from Halsted east to the
river, were lined with vile dens and tumbledown yellow and gray frame
houses, slovenly, rancorous, unsolved and possibly unsolvable misery and
degeneracy, whole streets of degraded, dejected, miserable souls. Why
didn’t society do better by them? I often asked of myself then. Why
didn’t they do better by themselves? Did God, who, as had been drummed
into me up to that hour was all wise, all merciful, omnipresent and
omnipotent make people so or did they themselves have something to do
with it? Was government to blame, or they themselves? Always the
miseries of the poor, the scandals, corruptions and physical
deteriorations which trail folly, weakness, uncontrolled passion
fascinated me. I was never tired of looking at them, but I had no
solution and was not willing to accept any, suspecting even then that
man is the victim of forces over which he has no control. As I walked
here and there through these truly terrible neighborhoods, I peered
through open doors and patched and broken windows at this wretchedness
and squalor, much as a man may tread the poisonous paths of a jungle,
curious and yet fearsome.

It was this nosing and speculative tendency, however, which helped me
most, as I soon found. Journalism, even in Chicago, was still in that
discursive stage which loved long-winded yarns upon almost any topic.
Nearly all news stories were padded to make more of them than they
deserved, especially as to color and romance. All specials were being
written in imitation of the great novelists, particularly Charles
Dickens, who was the ideal of all newspaper men and editors as well as
magazine special writers (how often have I been told to imitate Charles
Dickens in thought and manner!). The city editors wanted not so much
bare facts as feature stories, color, romance; and, although I did not
see it clearly at the time, I was their man.

Write?

Why, I could write reams upon any topic when at last I discovered that I
could write at all. One day some one—Maxwell, I suppose—hearing me speak
of what I was seeing each day as I came to or went from the office to my
room, suggested that I do an article on Chicago’s vilest slum, which lay
between Halsted and the river, Madison and Twelfth streets, for the next
Sunday issue, and this was as good as meat and drink for me. I visited
this region a few times between one and four in the morning, wandering
about its clattering boardwalks, its dark alleys, its gloomy mire and
muck atmosphere. Chicago’s wretchedness was never utterly tame,
disconsolate or hang-dog, whatever else it might be; rather, it was
savage, bitter and at times larkish and impish. The vile slovens,
slatterns, prostitutes, drunkards and drug fiends who infested this
region all led a strident if beggarly or horrible life. Saloon lights
and smells and lamps gleaming smokily from behind broken lattices and
from below wooden sidewalk levels, gave it a shameless and dangerous
color. Accordions, harmonicas, jew’s-harps, clattering tin-pan pianos
and stringy violins were forever going; paintless rotting shacks always
resounded with a noisy blasphemous life between twelve and four; oaths,
foul phrases; a Hogarthian shamelessness and reconciliation to filth
everywhere—these were some of the things that characterized it. Although
there was a closing-hour law there was none here as long as it was
deemed worth while to keep open. Only at four and five in the morning
did a heavy peace seem to descend, and this seemed as wretched as the
heavier vice and degradation which preceded it.

In the face of such a scene or picture as this my mind invariably paused
in question. I had been reared on dogmatic religious and moral theory,
or at least had been compelled to listen to it all my life. Here then
was a part of the work of an omnipotent God, who nevertheless tolerated,
apparently, a most industrious devil. Why did He do it? Why did nature,
when left to itself, devise such astounding slums and human muck heaps?
Harlots in doorways or behind windows or under lamp-posts in these
areas, smirking and signaling creatures with the dullest or most
fox-like expression and with heavily smeared lips and cheeks and
blackened eyebrows, were ready to give themselves for one dollar, or
even fifty cents, and this in the heart of this budding and prosperous
West, a land flowing with milk and honey! What had brought that about so
soon in a new, rich, healthy, forceful land—God? devil? or both working
together toward a common end? Near at hand were huge and rapidly
expanding industries. The street-cars and trains, morning and evening,
were crowded with earnest, careful, saving, seeking, moderately
well-dressed people who were presumably anxious to work and lay aside a
competence and own a home. Then why was it that these others lived in
such a hell? Was God to blame? Or society?

I could not solve it. This matter of being, with its differences, is
permanently above the understanding of man, I fear.

I smiled as I thought of my father’s attitude to all this. There he was
out on the west side demanding that all creatures of the world return to
Christ and the Catholic Church, see clearly, whether they could or not,
its grave import to their immortal souls; and here were these sows and
termagants, wretched, filthy, greasy. And the men low-browed, ill-clad,
rum-soaked, body-racked! Mere bags of bones, many of them, blue-nosed,
scarlet-splotched, diseased—if God should get them what would He do with
them? On the other hand, in the so-called better walks of life, there
were so many strutting, contentious, self-opinionated swine-masters
whose faces were maps of gross egoism and whose clothes were almost a
blare of sound.

I think I said a little something of all this in the first newspaper
special I ever wrote. It seemed to open the eyes of my superiors.

“You know, Theodore,” Maxwell observed to me as he read my copy the next
morning between one and three, “you have your faults, but you do know
how to observe. You bring a fresh mind to bear on this stuff; anyhow I
think maybe you’re cut out to be a writer after all, not just an
ordinary newspaper man.” He lapsed into silence, and then at periods as
he read he would exclaim: “Jesus Christ!” or “That’s a hell of a world!”
Then he would fall foul of some turgid English and with a kind of
malicious glee would cut and hack and restate and shake his head
despairingly, until I was convinced that I had written the truckiest rot
in the world. At the close, however, he arose, dusted his lap, lit a
pipe and said: “Well, I think you’re nutty, but I believe you’re a
writer just the same. They ought to let you do more Sunday specials.”
And then he talked to me about phases of the Chicago he knew,
contrasting it with a like section in San Francisco, where he had once
worked.

“A hell of a fine novel is going to be written about some of these
things one of these days,” he remarked; and from now on he treated me
with such equality that I thought I must indeed be a very remarkable
man.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XIII


THIS world of newspaper men who now received me on terms of social
equality, who saw life from a purely opportunistic, and yet in the main
sentimentally imaginative, viewpoint broadened me considerably and
finally liberated me from moralistic and religionistic qualms. So many
of them were hard, gallant adventurers without the slightest trace of
the nervousness and terror of fortune which agitated me. They had been
here, there, everywhere—San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Calcutta,
London. They knew the ways of the newspaper world and to a limited
extent the workings of society at large. The conventional-minded would
have called them harsh, impracticable, impossible, largely because they
knew nothing of trade, that great American standard of ability and
force. Most of them, as I soon found, were like John Maxwell, free from
notions as to how people were to act and what they were to think. To a
certain extent they were confused by the general American passive
acceptance of the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes as governing
principles, but in the main they were nearly all mistrustful of these
things, and of conventional principles in general.

They did not believe, as I still did, that there was a fixed moral order
in the world which one contravened at his peril. Heaven only knows where
they had been or what they had seen, but they misdoubted the motives,
professed or secret, of nearly every man. No man, apparently, was
utterly and consistently honest, that is, no man in a powerful or
dominant position; and but few were kind or generous or truly
public-spirited. As I sat in the office between assignments, or
foregathered with them at dinner or at midnight in some one of the many
small restaurants frequented by newspaper men, I heard tales of all
sorts of scandals: robberies, murders, fornications, incendiarisms, not
only in low life but in our so-called high life. Most of these young men
looked upon life as a fierce, grim struggle in which no quarter was
either given or taken, and in which all men laid traps, lied,
squandered, erred through illusion: a conclusion with which I now most
heartily agree. The one thing I would now add is that the brigandage of
the world is in the main genial and that in our hour of success we are
all inclined to be more or less liberal and warm-hearted.

But at this time I was still sniffing about the Sermon on the Mount and
the Beatitudes, expecting ordinary human flesh and blood to do and be
those things. Hence the point of view of these men seemed at times a
little horrific, at other times most tonic.

“People make laws for other people to live up to,” Maxwell once said to
me, “and in order to protect themselves in what they have. They never
intend those laws to apply to themselves or to prevent them from doing
anything they wish to do.”

There was a youth whose wife believed that he did not drink. On two
occasions within six weeks I was sent as envoy to inform his wife that
he had suddenly been taken ill with indigestion and would soon be home.
Then Maxwell and Brady would bundle him into a hack and send him off,
one or two of us going along to help him into his house. So solemnly was
all this done and so well did we play our parts that his wife believed
it for a while—long enough for him to pull himself together a year later
and give up drinking entirely. Another youth boasted that he was
syphilitic and was curing himself with mercury; another there was whose
joy it was to sleep in a house of prostitution every Saturday night, and
so on. I tell these things not because I rejoice in them but merely to
indicate the atmosphere into which I was thrown. Neither sobriety nor
virtue nor continence nor incontinence was either a compelling or
preventive cause of either success or failure or had anything to do with
true newspaper ability; rather men succeeded by virtue of something that
was not intimately related to any of these. If one could do anything
which the world really wanted it would not trouble itself so much about
one’s private life.

Another change that was being brought about in me was that which related
to my personal opinion of myself, the feeling I was now swiftly
acquiring that after all I amounted to something, was somebody. A
special or two that I wrote, thanks largely to Maxwell’s careful
schooling, brought me to the forefront among those of the staff who were
writing for the Sunday supplement. A few news stories fell to my lot and
I handled them with a freedom which won me praise on all sides. Not that
I felt at the time that I was writing them so well or differently as
that I was most earnestly concerned to state what I saw or felt or
believed. I even essayed a few parables of my own, mild, poetic
commentaries on I scarcely recall what, which Maxwell scanned with a
scowling eye at first but later deigned to publish, affixing the
signature of Carl Dreiser because he had decided to nickname me “Carl.”
This grieved me, for I was dying to see my own name in print; but when
they appeared I had the audacity to call upon the family and show them,
boasting of my sudden rise in the world and saying that I had used the
name Carl as a compliment to a nephew.

During this time I was taking a rather lofty hand with Alice because of
my great success, unmindful of the fact that I had been boasting for
months that I was connected with one of the best of the local papers and
telling her that I did not think it so wonderful. But now I began to
think that I was to be called to much higher realms, and solemnly asked
myself if I should ever want to marry. A number of things helped to
formulate this question in me. For one thing, I had no sooner been
launched into general assignments than one afternoon, in seeking for the
pictures of a group of girls who had taken part in some summer-night
festival, I encountered one who seemed to be interested in me, a little
blonde of about my own age, very sleek and dreamy. She responded to my
somewhat timid advances when I called on her and condescended to smile
as she gave me her photograph. I drew close to her and attempted a
flirtation, to which she was not averse, and on parting I asked if I
might call some afternoon or evening, hoping to crowd it in with my
work. She agreed, and for several Sundays and week-nights I was put to
my utmost resources to keep my engagements and do my work, for the
newspaper profession that I knew, tolerated neither week-days nor
Sundays off. I had to take an assignment and shirk it in part or
telephone that I was delayed and could not come at all. Thus early even
I began to adopt a cavalier attitude toward this very exacting work.
Twice I took her to a theater, once to an organ recital, and once for a
stroll in Jackson Park; by which time she seemed inclined to yield to my
blandishments to the extent of permitting me to put my arms about her
and even to kiss her, protesting always that I was wanton and forward
and that she did not know whether she cared for me so much or not.
Charming as she was, I did not feel that I should care for her very
much. She was beautiful but too lymphatic, too carefully reared. Her
mother, upon hearing of me, looked into the fact of whether I was truly
connected with the _Globe_ and then cautioned her daughter to be careful
about making new friends. I saw that I was not welcome at that house and
thereafter met her slyly. I might have triumphed in this case had I been
so minded and possessed of a little more courage, but as I feared that I
should have to undergo a long courtship with marriage at the end of it,
my ardor cooled. Because she was new to me and comfortably stationed and
better dressed than either Alice or N—— had ever been, I esteemed her
more highly, made invidious comparisons from a material point of view,
and wished that I could marry some such well-placed girl without
assuming all the stern obligations of matrimony.

During the second month of my work on the _Globe_ there arrived on the
scene a man who was destined to have a very marked effect on my career.
He was a tall, dark, broad-shouldered, slender-legged individual of
about forty-five or fifty, with a shock of curly black hair and a burst
of smuggler-like whiskers. He was truly your Bret Harte gold-miner type,
sloven, red-eyed at times, but amazingly intelligent and genial,
reminding me not a little of my brother Rome in his best hours. He wore
a long dusty, brownish-black frockcoat and a pair of black trousers
specked, gummed, shined and worn by tobacco, food, liquor and rough
usage. His feet were incased in wide-toed shoes of the old
“boot-leather” variety, and the swirl of Jovian locks and beard was
surmounted by a wide-brimmed black hat such as Kentucky colonels were
wont to affect. His nose and cheeks were tinted a fiery red by much
drinking, the nose having a veinous, bulbous, mottled and strawberry
texture.

This man was John T. McEnnis, a well-known middle-West newspaper man of
that day, a truly brilliant writer whose sole fault was that he drank
too much. Originally from St. Louis, the son of a well-known politician
there, he had taken up journalism as the most direct avenue to fame and
fortune. At forty-five he found himself a mere hanger-on in this
profession, tossed from job to job because of his weakness, his skill
equaled if not outrivaled by that of younger men! It was commonly said
that he could drink more and stand it better than any other man in
Chicago.

“Why, he can’t begin to work unless he’s had three or four drinks to
limber him up,” Harry Dunlap once said to me. “He has to have six or
seven more to get through till evening.” He did not say how many were
required to carry him on until midnight, but I fancy he must have
consumed at least a half dozen more. He was in a constant state of
semi-intoxication, which was often skillfully concealed.

During my second month on the _Globe_ McEnnis was made city editor in
place of Sullivan, who had gone to a better paper. Later he was made
managing editor. I learned from Maxwell that he was well known in
Chicago newspaper circles for his wit, his trenchant editorial pen, and
that once he had been considered the most brilliant newspaper editor in
St. Louis. He had a small, spare, intellectual wife, very homely and
very dowdy, who still adored him and had suffered God knows what to be
permitted to live with him.

The first afternoon I saw him sitting in the city editorial chair I was
very much afraid of him and of my future. He looked raucous and uncouth,
and Maxwell had told me that new editors usually brought in new men. As
it turned out, however, much to my astonishment, he took an almost
immediate fancy to me which ripened into a kind of fatherly affection
and even, if you will permit me humbly to state a fact, a kind of
adoration. Indeed he swelled my head by the genial and hearty manner in
which almost at once he took me under his guidance and furthered my
career as rapidly as he could, the while he borrowed as much of my small
salary as he could. Please do not think that I begrudged this then or
that I do now. I owe him more than a dozen such salaries borrowed over a
period of years could ever repay. My one grief is, that I had so little
to give him in return for the very great deal he did for me.

The incident from which this burst of friendship seemed to take its rise
was this. One day shortly after he arrived he gave me a small clipping
concerning a girl on the south side who had run away or had been
kidnaped from one of the dreariest homes it has ever been my lot to see.
The girl was a hardy Irish creature of about sixteen. A neighborhood
street boy had taken her to some wretched dive in South Clark Street and
seduced her. Her mother, an old, Irish Catholic woman whom I found
bending over a washtub when I called, was greatly exercised as to what
had become of her daughter, of whom she had heard nothing since her
disappearance. The police had been informed, and from clews picked up by
a detective I learned the facts first mentioned. The mother wept into
her wash as she told me of the death of her husband a few years before,
of a boy who had been injured in such a way that he could not work, and
now this girl, her last hope——

From a newspaper point of view there was nothing much to the story, but
I decided to follow it to the end. I found the house to which the boy
had taken the girl, but they had just left. I found the parents of the
youth, simple, plain working people, who knew nothing of his
whereabouts. Something about the wretched little homes of both families,
the tumbledown neighborhoods, the poverty and privation which would ill
become a pretty sensuous girl, impelled me to write it out as I saw and
felt it. I hurried back to the office that afternoon and scribbled out a
kind of slum romance, which in the course of the night seemed to take
the office by storm. Maxwell, who read it, scowled at first, then said
it was interesting, and then fine.

“Carl,” he interpolated at one point as he read, “you’re letting your
youthful romantic mood get the best of you, I see. This will never do,
Carl. Read Schopenhauer, my boy, read Schopenhauer.”

The city editor picked it up when he returned, intending, I presume, to
see if there was any sign of interest in the general introduction;
finding something in it to hold him, he read on carefully to the end, as
I could see, for I was not a dozen feet away and could see what he was
reading. When he finished he looked over at me and then called me to
come to him.

“I want to say to you,” he said, “that you have just done a fine piece
of writing. I don’t go much on this kind of story, don’t believe in it
as a rule for a daily paper, but the way you have handled this is fine.
You’re young yet, and if you just keep yourself well in hand you have a
future.”

Thereafter he became very friendly, asked me out one lunch-time to have
a drink, borrowed a dollar and told me of some of the charms and wonders
of journalistic work in St. Louis and elsewhere. He thought the _Globe_
was too small a paper for me, that I ought to get on a larger one,
preferably in another city, and suggested how valuable would be a period
of work on the St. Louis _Globe-Democrat_, of which he had once been
city editor.

“You haven’t any idea how much you need all this,” he said. “You’re
young and inexperienced, and a great paper like the _Globe-Democrat_ or
the New York _Sun_ starts a boy off right. I would like to see you go
first to St. Louis, and then to New York. Don’t settle down anywhere
yet, don’t drink, and don’t get married, whatever you do. A wife will be
a big handicap to you. You have a future, and I’m going to help you if I
can.” Then he borrowed another dollar and left me.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XIV


TAKEN up by this man in this way and with Maxwell as my literary guide
and mentor still, I could not help but prosper to an extent at this
task, and I did. I cannot recall now all the things that I was called
upon to do, but one of the things that shortly after the arrival of
McEnnis was assigned to me and that eventually brought my Chicago
newspaper career to a close in a sort of blaze of glory as I saw it, at
least, was a series of articles or rather a campaign to close a group of
fake auction shops which were daily fleecing hundreds by selling bogus
watches, jewelry, diamonds and the like, yet which were licensed by the
city and from which the police were deriving a very handsome revenue.
Although so new at this work the task was placed in my hands as a
regular daily assignment by Mr. McEnnis with the comment that I must
make something out of it, whether or not I thought I could put a news
punch in it and close these places. That would be a real newspaper
victory and ought to do me some good with my chief the managing editor.
Campaigns of this kind are undertaken not in a spirit of righteousness
as a rule but because of public pressure or a wish to increase
circulation and popularity; yet in this case no such laudable or
excusable intent could be alleged.

This paper was controlled by John B. MacDonald, an Irish politician,
gambler, racer of horses, and the owner of a string of local houses of
prostitution, saloons and gambling dens, all of which brought him a
large income and made him influential politically. Recently he had
fallen on comparatively difficult days. His reputation as a shady
character had become too widespread. The pharisees and influential men
generally who had formerly profited by his favor now found it expedient
to pass by on the other side. Public sentiment against him had been
aroused by political attacks on the part of one newspaper and another
that did not belong to his party. The last election having been lost to
him, the police and other departments of the city were now supposed to
work in harmony to root out his vile though profitable vice privileges.

Everybody knows how these things work. Some administration attacks were
made upon his privileges, whereupon, not finding suitable support in the
papers of his own party in the city, they having axes of their own to
grind, he had started a paper of his own, the _Globe_. He had brought on
a capable newspaper man from New York, who was doing his best to make of
the paper something which would satisfy MacDonald’s desire for
circulation and influence while he lined his own pockets against a rainy
day. For this reason, no doubt, our general staff was underpaid, though
fairly capable. During my stay the police and other departments, under
the guidance of Republican politicians and newspapers, were making an
attack on Mr. MacDonald’s preserves; to which he replied by attacking
through the medium of the _Globe_ anything and everything he thought
would do his rivals harm. Among these were a large number of these same
mock auction shops in the downtown section. Evidently the police were
deriving a direct revenue from these places, for they let them severely
alone but since the administration was now anti-MacDonald and these were
not Mr. MacDonald’s property nothing was left undone by us to stop this
traffic. We charged, and it was true, that though victims daily appeared
before the police to complain that they had been swindled and to ask for
restitution, nothing was done by the police.

I cannot now recall what it was about my treatment of these institutions
that aroused so much interest in the office and made me into a kind of
_Globe_ hero. I was innocent of all knowledge of the above complications
which I have just described when I started, and almost as innocent when
I concluded. Nevertheless now daily at ten in the morning and again in
the afternoon I went to one or another of these shops, listened to the
harangue of the noisy barkers, saw tin-gilt jewelry knocked down to
unsuspecting yokels from the South and West who stood open-mouthed
watching the hypnotizing movements of the auctioneer’s hands as he waved
a glistering gem or watch in front of them and expatiated on the
beauties and perfections of the article he was compelled to part from
for a song. These places were not only deceptions and frauds in what
they pretended to sell but also gathering-places for thieves,
pick-pockets, footpads who, finding some deluded bystander to be
possessed of a watch, pin or roll of money other than that from which he
was parted by the auctioneer or his associates, either then and there by
some legerdemain robbed him or followed him into a dark street and
knocked him down and did the same. At this time Chicago was notorious
for this sort of thing, and it was openly charged in the _Globe_ and
elsewhere that the police connived at and thrived by the transactions.

My descriptions of what was going on, innocent and matter of fact as
they were at first and devoid of guile or make-believe, so pleased Mr.
McEnnis beyond anything I had previously done that he was actually
fulsome and yet at the same time mandatory and restraining in his
compliments. I have no desire to praise myself at this time. Such things
and so much that seemed so important then have since become trivial
beyond words but it is only fair to state that he was seemingly
immensely pleased and amused as was Maxwell.

“Upon my word,” I once heard him exclaim, as he read one of my daily
effusions. “The rascals. Who would think that such scamps would be
allowed to run at large in a city like this! They certainly ought to be
in jail. Every one of them. And the police along with them.” Then he
chuckled, slapped his knee and finally came over and made some inquiries
in regard to a certain dealer whom I had chanced to picture. I was
cautioned against overstating anything; also against detection and being
beaten up by those whom I was offending. For I noticed after the first
day or two that the barkers of some of the shops occasionally studied me
curiously or ceased their more shameful effronteries in my presence and
produced something of more value. The facts which my articles presented,
however, finally began to attract a little attention to the paper.
Either because the paper sold better or because this was an excellent
club wherewith to belabor his enemies, the publisher now decided to call
the attention of the public via the billboards, to what was going on in
our columns, and McEnnis himself undertook to frighten the police into
action by swearing out warrants against the different owners of the
shops and thus compelling them to take action.

I became the center of a semi-literary, semi-public reform hubbub. The
principal members of the staff assured me that the articles were
forceful in fact and color and highly amusing. One day, by way of the
license bureau and with the aid of McEnnis, I secured the names of the
alleged owners and managers of nearly all of these shops and thereafter
attacked them by name, describing them just as they were, where they
lived, how they made their money, etc. In company with a private
detective and several times with McEnnis, I personally served warrants
of arrest, accompanied the sharpers to police headquarters, where they
were immediately released on bail, and then ran to the office to write
out my impressions of all I had seen, repeating conversations as nearly
as I could remember, describing uncouth faces and bodies of crooks,
policemen and detectives, and by sly innuendo indicating what a farce
and sham was the whole seeming interest of the police.

One day McEnnis and I called on the chief of police, demanding to know
why he was so indifferent to our crusade and the facts we put before
him. To my youthful amazement and enlightenment he shook his fist in our
faces and exclaimed: “You can go to the devil, and so can the _Globe_! I
know who’s back of this campaign, and why. Well, go on and play your
little game! Shout all you want to. Who’s going to listen to you? You
haven’t any circulation. You’re not going to make a mark of me, and
you’re not going to get me fired out of here for not performing my duty.
Your paper is only a dirty political rag without any influence.”

“Is it!” taunted McEnnis. “Well, you just wait and see. I think you’ll
change your mind as to that,” and we stalked solemnly out.

And in the course of time he did change his mind. Some of the fakers had
to be arrested and fined and their places closed up, and the longer we
talked and exposed the worse it became for them. Finally a dealer
approached me one morning and offered me an eighteen-carat gold watch,
to be selected by me from any jewelry store in the city and paid for by
him, if I would let his store alone. I refused. Another, a dark, dusty,
most amusing little Jew, offered me a diamond pin, insisting upon
sticking it in my cravat, and said: “Go see! Go see! Ask any jeweler
what he thinks, if that ain’t a real stone! If it ain’t—if he says
no—bring it back to me and I’ll give you a hundred dollars in cash for
it. Don’t you mention me no more now. Be a nice young feller now. I’m a
hard-workin’ man just like anybody else. I run a honest place.”

I carried the pin back to the office and gave it to McEnnis. He stared
at me in amazement.

“Why did you do this?” he exclaimed. “You shouldn’t have taken this, at
all. It may get the paper in trouble. They may have had witnesses to
this—but maybe not. Perhaps this fellow is just trying to protect
himself. Anyway, we’re going to take this thing back to him and don’t
take anything more, do you hear, money or anything. You can’t do that
sort of thing. If I didn’t think you were honest I’d fire you right
now.”

He took me into the office of the editor-in-chief, who looked at me with
still, gray-blue eyes and listened to my story. He dismissed me and
talked with McEnnis for a while. When the latter came out he exclaimed
triumphantly: “He sees that you’re honest, all right, and he’s tickled
to death. Now we’ll take this pin back, and then you’ll write out the
whole story just as it happened.”

On the way we went to a magistrate to swear out a charge of attempted
bribery against this man, and later in the same day I went with the
detective to serve the warrant. To myself I seemed to be swimming in a
delicious sea of life. “What a fine thing life is!” I thought. “Here I
am getting along famously because I can write. Soon I will get more
money, and maybe some day people will begin to hear of me. I will get a
fine reputation in the newspaper world.”

Thanks to this vigorous campaign, of which McEnnis was the inspiration
and guiding spirit, all these auction shops were eventually closed. In
so much at least John B. MacDonald had achieved a revenge.

As for myself, I felt that there must be some serious and favorable
change impending for me; and true enough, within a fortnight after this
the change came. I had noticed that McEnnis had become more and more
friendly. He introduced me to his wife one day when she was in the
office and told her in my presence what splendid work I was doing. Often
he would take me to lunch or to a saloon for drinks (for which I would
pay), and would then borrow a dollar or two or three, no part of which
he ever returned. He lectured me on the subject of study, urging me to
give myself a general education by reading, attending lectures and the
like. He wanted me to look into painting, music, sculpture. As he talked
the blood would swirl in my head, and I kept thinking what a brilliant
career must be awaiting me. One thing he did was to secure me a place on
the St. Louis _Globe-Democrat_.

Just at this time a man whose name I have forgotten—Leland, I think—the
Washington correspondent of the St. Louis _Globe-Democrat_, came to
Chicago to report the preliminary preparations for the great World’s
Fair which was to open the following spring. Already the construction of
a number of great buildings in Jackson Park had been begun, and the
newspapers throughout the country were on the alert as to its progress.
Leland, as I may as well call him, a cool, capable observer and writer,
was an old friend of McEnnis. McEnnis introduced me to him and made an
impassioned plea in my behalf for an opportunity for me to do some
writing for the _Globe-Democrat_ in St. Louis under his direction. The
idea was to get this man to allow me to do some World’s Fair work for
him, on the side, in addition to my work on the _Globe_, and then later
to persuade Joseph B. McCullagh of the former paper to make a place for
me in St. Louis.

“As you see,” he said when he introduced me, “he’s a mere boy without
any experience, but he has the makings of a first-rate newspaper man.
I’m sure of it. Now, Henry, as a favor to me, I want you to help him.
You’re close to Mac” (Joseph B. McCullagh, editor-in-chief of the St.
Louis _Globe-Democrat_), “and he’s just the man this boy ought to go to
to get his training. Dreiser has just completed a fine piece of
journalistic work for me. He’s closed up the fake auction shops here,
and I want to reward him. He only gets fifteen a week here, and I can’t
do anything for him in Chicago just now. You write and ask Mac to take
him on down there, and I’ll write also and tell him how I feel about
it.”

The upshot of this was that I was immediately taken into the favor of
Mr. Leland, given some easy gossip writing to do, which netted me
sixteen dollars the week for three weeks in addition to the fifteen I
earned on the _Globe_. At the end of that time, some correspondence
having ensued between the editor of the _Globe-Democrat_ and his two
Chicago admirers, I one day received a telegram which read:

    “You may have reportorial position on this paper at twenty
    dollars a week, beginning next Monday. Wire reply.”

I stood in the dusty little _Globe_ office and stared at this, wondering
what so great an opportunity portended. Only six months before I had
been jobless and hanging about this back door; here I was tonight with
as much as fifty dollars in my pocket, a suit of good clothes on my
back, good shoes, a good hat and overcoat. I had learned how to write
and was already classed here as a star reporter. I felt as though life
were going to do wonderful and beautiful things for me. I thought of
Alice, that now I should have to leave her and this familiar and now
comfortable Chicago atmosphere, and then I went over to McEnnis to ask
him what I ought to do.

When he read the telegram he said: “This is the best chance that could
possibly come to you. You will be working on one of the greatest papers
and under one of the greatest editors that ever lived. Make the most of
your chance. Go? Of course go! Let’s see—it’s Tuesday; our regular week
ends Friday. You hand in your resignation now, to take effect then, and
go Sunday. I’ll give you some letters that will help you,” and he at
once turned to his desk and wrote out a series of instructions and
recommendations.

That night, and for four days after, until I took the train for St.
Louis, I walked on air. I was going away. I was going out in the world
to make my fortune. Withal I was touched by the pathos of the fact that
life and youth and everything which now glimmered about me so hopefully
was, for me as well as for every other living individual, insensibly
slipping away.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER XV


THIS sudden decision to terminate my newspaper life in Chicago involved
the problem of what to do about Alice. During these spring and summer
days I had been amusing myself with her, imagining sometimes, because of
her pretty face and figure and her soft clinging ways, that I was in
love with her. By the lakes and pagodas of Chicago’s parks, on the lake
shore at Lincoln Park where the white sails were to be seen, in Alice’s
cozy little room with the windows open and the lights out, or of a
Sunday morning when her parents were away visiting and she was preparing
my breakfast and flouring her nose and chin in the attempt—how happy we
were! How we frivoled and kissed and made promises to ourselves
concerning the future! We were like two children at times, and for a
while I half decided that I would marry her. In a little while we were
going everywhere together and she was planning her wedding trousseau,
the little fineries she would have when we were married. We were to live
on the south side near the lake in a tiny apartment. She described to me
the costume she would wear, which was to be of satin of an ivory shade,
with laces, veils, slippers and stockings to match.

But as spring wore on and I grew so restless I began to think not so
much less of Alice as more of myself. I never saw her as anything but
beautiful, tender, a delicate, almost perfect creature for some one to
love and cherish. Once we went hand-in-hand over the lawns of Jackson
Park of a Sunday afternoon. She was enticing in a new white flannel
dress and dark blue hat. The day was warm and clear and a convoy of
swans was sailing grandly about the little lake. We sat down and watched
them and the ducks, the rowers in green, blue and white boats, with the
white pagoda in the center of the lake reflected in the water. All was
colorful, gay.

“Oh, Dorse,” she said at one place, with a little gasping sigh which
moved me by its pathos, “isn’t it lovely?”

“Beautiful.”

“We are so happy when we are together, aren’t we?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, I wish we were married! If we just had a little place of our own!
You could come home to me, and I could make you such nice things.”

I promised her happy days to come, but even as I said it I knew it would
not be. I did not think I could build a life on my salary ... I did not
know that I wanted to. Life was too wide and full. She seemed to sense
something of this from the very beginning, and clung close to me now as
we walked, looking up into my eyes, smiling almost sadly. As the hours
slipped away into dusk and the hush of evening suggested change and the
end of many things she sighed again.

“Oh, Dorse,” she said as we reached her doorstep, “if we could just be
together always and never part!”

“We will be,” I said, but I did not believe my own words.

It was on this spring night that she attempted to persuade me, not by
words or any great craft but merely by a yielding pressure, to take her
and make her fully mine. I fancy she thought that if she yielded to me
physically and found herself with child my sympathy would cause me to
marry her. We in her own home threw some pillows on the floor, and there
in my arms she kissed and hugged me, begging me to love her; but I had
not the wish. I did not think that I ought to do that thing, then.

It was after this that the upward turn of my fortunes began. I was
involved in the mock auction war for over three weeks and for two weeks
following that with my buzzing dreams of leaving Chicago. In this rush
of work, and in paying some attentions to Miss Winstead, I neglected
Alice shamefully, once for ten days, not calling at her house or store
or writing her a note. One Sunday morning, troubled about me and no
doubt heartsick, she attended the ethical culture lecture in the Grand
Theater, where I often went. On coming out she met me and I greeted her
affectionately, but she only looked at me with sad and reproachful eyes
and said: “Oh, Dorse, you don’t really care any more, do you? You’re
just a little sorry when you see me. Well, you needn’t come any more.
I’m going back to Harry. I’m only too glad that I can.”

She admitted that, misdoubting me, she had never dropped him entirely
but had kept him calling occasionally. This angered me and I said to
myself: “What is she that I should worry over her?” Imagine. And this
double-dealing, essential as it was then, cut me to the quick, although
I had been doing as much and more. When I thought it out I knew that she
was entitled to protect herself against so uncertain a love as mine.
Even then I could have taken her—she practically asked me to—but I
offered reasons and excuses for delay. I went away both angry and sad,
and the following Sunday, having received the telegram from St. Louis, I
left without notifying her. Indeed I trifled about on this score
debating with myself until Saturday night, when McEnnis asked me to go
to dinner with him; afterwards when I hurried to her home she was not
there. This angered me groundlessly, even though I knew she never
expected me any more of a Saturday night. I returned to my room,
disconsolate and gloomy, packed my belongings and then decided that I
would go back after midnight and knock at her door. Remembering that my
train left at seven-thirty next morning and having no doubt that she was
off with my rival, I decided to punish her. After all, I could come back
if I wished, or she could come to me. I wrote her a note, then went to
bed and slept fitfully until six-thirty, when I arose and hurried to
make my train. In a little while I was off, speeding through those wide
flat yards which lay adjacent to her home, and with my nose pressed
against the window, a driving rain outside, I could see the very windows
and steps by which we had so often sat. My heart sank and I ached. I
decided at once to write her upon my arrival in St. Louis and beg her to
come—not to become my wife perhaps but my mistress. I brooded gloomily
all day as I sped southward, picturing myself as a lorn youth without
money, home, family, love, anything. I tried to be sad, thinking at the
same time what wonderful things might not be going to befall me. But I
was leaving Alice! I was leaving Chicago, my home, all that was familiar
and dear! I felt as though I could not stand it, as though when I
reached St. Louis I should take the next train and return.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XVI


THE time was November, 1892. St. Louis, as I stepped off the train that
Sunday evening, after leaving Chicago in cold dreary state, seemed a
warmer clime. The air was soft, almost balmy; but St. Louis could be
cold enough too, as I soon discovered. The station, then at Twelfth and
Poplar (the new Union Station at Eighteenth and Market was then
building), an antiquated affair of brick and stone, with the tracks
stretching in rows in front of it and reached by board walks laid at
right angles to them, seemed unspeakably shabby and inconvenient to me
after the better ones of Chicago. St. Louis, I said to myself, was not
as good as Chicago. Chicago was rough, powerful, active; St. Louis was
sleepy and slow. This was due, however, to the fact that I entered it of
a Sunday evening and all its central portion was still. Contrasted with
Chicago it was not a metropolis at all. While rich and successful it was
a creature of another mood and of slower growth. I learned in time to
like it very much, but for the things that set it apart from other
cities, not for the things by which it sought to rival them.

But on that evening how dull and commonplace it seemed—how slow after
the wave-like pulsation of energy that appeared to shake the very air of
Chicago.

I made my way to a hotel called The Silver Moon, recommended to me by my
mentor and sponsor, where one could get a room for a dollar, a meal for
twenty-five cents. Outside of Joseph B. McCullagh, editor of the
_Globe-Democrat_, and Edmond O’Neill, former editor of the _Republic_ to
whom I bore a letter, there was no one to whom I might commend myself. I
did not care. I was in a strange city at last! I was out in the world
now really, away from my family. My great interest was in life as a
spectacle, this singing, rhythmic, mystic state in which I found myself.
Life, the great sea! Life, the wondrous, colorful riddle!

After eating a bite in the almost darkened restaurant of this hotel I at
once went out into Pine Street and stared at the street-cars, yellow,
red, orange, green, brown, labeled Choteau Avenue, Tower Grove,
Jefferson Avenue, Carondelet. My first business was to find the
_Globe-Democrat_ building, a prosperous eight-story brownstone and brick
affair standing at Sixth and Pine. I stared at this building in the
night, looking through the great plate glass windows at an onyx-lined
office, and finally went in and bought a Sunday paper.

I went to my room and studied this paper—then slept, thinking of my
coming introduction in the morning. I was awakened by the clangor of
countless cars. Going to the stationary washstand I was struck at once
by the yellowness of the water, a dark yellowish-brown, which deposited
a yellow sediment in the glass. Was that the best St. Louis could
afford? I asked myself in youthful derision. I drank it just the same,
went down to breakfast and then out into the city to see what I should
see. I bought a _Globe-Democrat_ (a Republican party paper, by the way:
an anachronism of age and change of ownership) and a _Republic_, the one
morning Democratic paper, and then walked to Sixth and Pine to have
another look at the building in which I was to work. I wandered along
Broadway and Fourth Street, the street of the old courthouse; sought out
the Mississippi River and stared at it, that vast river lying between
banks of yellow mud; then I went back to the office of the
_Globe-Democrat_, for it was nearing the time when its editor-in-chief
might choose to put in an appearance.

Joseph B. McCullagh (“Little Mac” of Eugene Field’s verse) was a short,
thick, aggressive, rather pugnacious and defensive person of Irish
extraction. He was short, sturdy, Napoleonic, ursine rather than
leonine. I was instantly drawn and thrown back by his stiff reserve. A
negro elevator boy had waved me along a marble hall on the seventh floor
to a room at the end, where I was met by an office boy who took in my
name and then ushered me into the great man’s presence. I found him at a
roll-top desk in a minute office, and he was almost buried in discarded
newspapers. I learned afterward that he would never allow these to be
removed until he was all but crowded out. I was racked with nervousness.
Whatever high estimate I had conceived of myself had oozed out by the
time I reached his door. I was now surveyed by keen gray Irish eyes from
under bushy brows.

“Um, yuss! Um, yuss!” was all he deigned to say. “See Mr. Mitchell in
the city room, Mr. Mitchell—um, yuss. Your salary will be—um—um—twenty
dollars to begin with” (he was chewing a cigar and mumbled his words),
and he turned to his papers.

Not a word, not a sign, that he knew I had ever written a line worth
while. I returned to the handsome city room, and found only empty desks.
I sat down and waited fully three-quarters of an hour, examining old
papers and staring out of the windows over the roofs until Mr. Mitchell
appeared.

Like his employer, he was thick-set, a bigger man physically but less
attractive. He had a round, closely-cropped head and a severe and
scowling expression. He reminded me of Squeers in _Nicholas Nickleby_. A
savage fat man—can anything be worse? He went to his desk with a quick
stride when he entered, never noticing me. When I approached and
explained who I was and why I was there he scarcely gave me a glance.

“The afternoon assignments won’t be ready till twelve-thirty,” he
commented drily. “Better take a seat in the next room.”

It was then only eleven-thirty, and I went into the next room and
waited. It was empty but deliciously warm on this chilly day. How
different from McEnnis, I thought. Evidently being called to a newspaper
by telegram was not to be interpreted as auguring that one was to lie on
a bed of roses.

A little bit afraid to leave for this hour, in case he might call, I
hung about the two windows of this room staring at the new city. How
wonderful it seemed, now this morning, after the quiet of the night
before, how strong and forceful in this November air. The streets and
sky were full of smoke; there was a clangor of street-car gongs below
and the rumble of endless trucks. A block or two away loomed up a tall
building of the newer order, twelve stories at least. Most of the
buildings were small, old family dwellings turned into stores. I
wondered about the life of the city, its charms, its prospects. What did
it hold for me? How long would I remain here? Would this paper afford me
any real advancement? Could I make a great impression and rise?

As I was thus meditating several newspaper men came in. One was a short
bustling fellow with a golden-brown mustache and a shock of curly brown
hair, whose name I subsequently learned was Hazard—a fitting name for a
newspaper reporter. He wore a fedora hat, a short cream-colored overcoat
which had many wrinkles about the skirts in the back, and striped
trousers. He came in with a brisk air, slightly skipping his feet as he
walked, and took a desk, which was nothing more than a segment of one
long desk fastened to the wall and divided by varnished partitions of
light oak. As soon as he was seated he opened a drawer and took out a
pipe, which he briskly filled and lighted, and then began to examine
some papers he had in his pockets. I liked his looks.

There sauntered in next a pale creature in a steel-gray suit of not too
new a look, who took a seat directly opposite the first comer. His left
hand, in a brown glove, hung at his side; apparently it was of wood or
stuffed leather. Later there arrived a negro of very intellectual
bearing, who took a seat next the second arrival; then a stout,
phlegmatic-looking man with dark eyes, dark hair and skin, which gave me
a feeling of something saturnine in his disposition. The next arrival
was a small skippity man, bustling about like a little mouse, and having
somewhat of a mousy look in his eyes, who seemed to be attached to the
main city editorial room in some capacity.

A curious company gradually filed in, fourteen or fifteen all told. I
gave up trying to catalogue them and turned to look out the window. The
little bustling creature came through the room several times, looked at
me without deigning to speak however, and finally put his head in at the
door and whispered to the attendant group: “The book’s ready.” At this
there was an immediate stir, nearly all of the men got up and one by one
they filed into the next room. Assuming that they were going to consult
the assignment book, I followed, but my name was not down. In Chicago my
city editor usually called each individual to him in person; here each
man was supposed to discover his assignment from a written page. I
returned to the reporters’ room when I found my name was not down,
wondering what I should be used for.

The others were not long gone before I was sought by the mouse—Hugh
Keller Hartung by name—who whispered: “The city editor wants to see
you”; and then for the second time I faced this gloomy man, whom I had
already begun not only to dislike but to fear. He was dark and savage,
in his mood to me at least, whether unconsciously so or not I do not
know. His broad face, set with a straight full nose and a wide
thin-lipped mouth, gave him a frozen Cromwellian outline. He seemed a
queer, unliterary type to be attached to so remarkable a journalist as
McCullagh.

“There’s been some trouble down at this number,” he said, handing me a
slip of paper on which an address was written. “A fight, I think. See if
you can find out anything about it.”

I hurried out, immensely relieved to get into the fresh air of the city.
I finally made my way to the place, only to find a vacant lot. Thinking
there might be some mistake, I went to the nearest police station and
inquired. Nothing was known. Fearing to fall down on my first
assignment, I returned to the lot, but could learn nothing. Gradually it
began to dawn upon me that this might be merely a trial assignment, a
bright idea of the frowning fat man, a bearings-finder. I had already
conceived a vast contempt for him, a stumbling-block in my path, I
thought. No wonder he came to hate me, as I learned afterward he did.

I wandered back through the city, looking at the strange little low
houses (it was the region between the river and North Broadway, about a
mile above the courthouse), and marveling at the darksome character of
the stores. Never in my life had I seen such old buildings, all brick
and all crowded together, with solid wood or iron shutters, modeled
after those of France from whence its original settlers came and having
something of the dourness of the poorer quarters of Paris about them,
and windows composed of very small panes of glass, evidences of the
influence of France, I am sure. Their interiors seemed so dark, so
redolent of an old-time life. The streets also appeared old-fashioned
with their cobblestones, their twists and turns and the very little
space that lay between the curbs. I felt as though the people must be
different from those in Chicago, less dynamic, less aggressive.

When I reached the office I found that the city editor, Mr. Mitchell,
had gone. The little mousy individual was at one of the parti-divisions
of the wall desk, near Mr. Mitchell’s big one, diving into a mass of
copy the while he scratched his ear or trifled with his pencil or jumped
mousily about in his seat.

“Is Mr. Mitchell about?” I inquired.

“No,” replied the other briskly; “he never gets in much before four
o’clock. Anything you want to know? I’m his assistant.”

He did not dare say “assistant city editor”; his superior would not have
tolerated one.

“He sent me out to this place, but it’s only a vacant lot.”

“Did you look all around the neighborhood? Sometimes you can get news of
these things in the neighborhood, you know, when you can’t get it right
at the spot. I often do that.”

“Yes,” I answered. “I inquired all about there.”

“It would be just like Tobe to send you out there, though,” he went on
feverishly and timidly, “just to break you in. He does things like that.
You’re the new man from Chicago, aren’t you—Dreiser?”

“Yes, but how did you know?”

“He said you were coming,” he replied, jerking his left thumb over his
shoulder. “My name’s Hartung, Hugh Keller Hartung.”

He was so respectful, almost fearsome in his references to his superior
that I could not help smiling. Now that I had my bearings, I did not
feel so keenly about Mr. Mitchell. He seemed dull.

“I suppose you’ll find St. Louis a little slower than Chicago,” he went
on, “but we have some of the biggest newspaper stories here you ever
saw. You remember the Preller Trunk Mystery, don’t you, and that big
Missouri-Pacific train robbery last year?”

I recalled both distinctly. “Is that so?” I commented, thinking of my
career in Chicago and hoping for a duplication of it here.

Heavy steps were heard in the hall just outside, and Mr. Hartung jumped
to his work like a frightened mouse; on the instant his head was fairly
pulled down between his shoulders and his nose pressed over his work. He
seemed to shrivel and shrink, and I wondered why. I went into the next
room just as Mr. Tobias Mitchell entered. When I explained that the
address he had given me was a vacant lot he merely looked up at me
quizzically, suspiciously.

“Couldn’t find it, eh? Somebody must have given me the wrong tip. Wait
in the next room. I’ll call you when I want you.”

I returned to that empty room, from which I could hear the industrious
pencil of Mr. Hartung and the occasional throat-clearing cough of Mr.
Mitchell brooding among his papers.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XVII


THIS reporters’ room, for all its handsome furnishings, never took on an
agreeable atmosphere to me; it was too gloomy—and solely because of the
personality next door. The room was empty when I entered, but in a short
while an old drunken railroad reporter with a red nose came in and sat
down in a corner seat, taking no notice of me. I read the morning paper
and waited. The room gradually filled up, and all went at once to their
desks and began to write industriously. I felt very much out of tune; a
reporter’s duty at this hour of the night was to write.

However, I made the best of my time reading, and finally went out to
supper alone, returning as quickly as possible in case there should be
an assignment for me. When I returned I found my name on the book and I
set out to interview a Chicago minister who was visiting in the city.
Evidently this city editor thought it would be easier for me to
interview a Chicago minister than any other. I found my man, after some
knocking at wrong doors, and got nothing worth a stick—mere religious
drive—and returned with my “story,” which was never used.

While I was writing it up, however, the youth of the Jovian curls
returned from an assignment, hung up his little wrinkled overcoat and
sat down in great comfort next me. His evening’s work was apparently
futile for he took out his pipe, rapped it sonorously on his chair,
lighted it and then picked up an evening paper.

“What’s doing, Jock, up at police headquarters?” called the little man
over his shoulder.

“Nothing much, Bob,” replied the other, without looking up.

“By jing, you police reporters have a cinch!” jested the first. “All you
do is sit around up there at headquarters and get the news off the
police blotters, while we poor devils are chasing all over town. _We_
have to earn our money.” His voice had a peculiarly healthy, gay and
bantering ring to it.

“That’s no joke,” put in a long, lean, spectacled individual who was
sitting in another corner. “I’ve been tramping all over south St. Louis,
looking for a confounded robbery story.”

“Well, you’ve got long legs, Benson,” retorted the jovial Hazard. “You
can stand it. Now I’m not so well fixed that way. Bellairs, there, ought
to be given a chance at that. He wouldn’t be getting so fat, by jing!”

The one called Jock also answered to the name of Bellairs.

“You people don’t do so much,” he replied, grinning cheerfully. “If you
had my job you wouldn’t be sitting here reading a newspaper. It takes
work to be a police reporter.”

“Is that so?” queried the little man banteringly. “You’re proof of it, I
suppose? Why, you never did a good day’s work in your life!”

“Give us a match, Bob, and shut up,” grinned the other. “You’re too
noisy. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me yet tonight.”

“I got your work! Is she over sixteen? Wish I had your job.”

Jock folded up some copy paper and put it into his pocket and walked
into the next room, where the little assistant was toiling away over the
night’s grist of news.

I still sat there, looking curiously on.

“It’s pretty tough,” said the spirited Hazard, turning to me, “to go out
on an assignment and then get nothing. I’d rather work hard over a good
story any day, wouldn’t you?”

“That’s the way I feel about it,” I replied. “It’s not much fun, sitting
around. By the way, do you know whose desk this is? I’ve been sitting at
it all evening.”

“It doesn’t belong to anybody at present. You might as well take it if
you like it. There’s a vacant one over there next to Benson’s, if you
like that better.” He waved toward the tall awkward scribe in the
corner.

“This is good enough,” I replied.

“Take your choice. There’s no trouble about desks just now. The staff’s
way down anyhow. You’re a stranger here, aren’t you?”

“Yes; I only came down from Chicago yesterday.”

“What paper’d jeh work on up there?”

“The _Globe_ and _News_,” I answered, lying about the latter in order to
give myself a better standing than otherwise I might have.

“They’re good papers, aren’t they?”

“Yes, pretty fair. The _News_ has the largest evening circulation.”

“We have some good papers here too. This is one of the biggest. The
_Post-Dispatch_ is pretty good too; it’s the biggest evening paper.”

“Do you know how much circulation this paper has?” I inquired.

“Oh, about fifty thousand, I should say. That’s not so much, compared to
Chicago circulation, but it’s pretty big for down here. We have the
biggest circulation of any paper in the Southwest. McCullagh’s one of
the greatest editors in this country, outside of Dana in New York, the
greatest of any. If McCullagh were in New York he’d be bigger than he
is, by jing!”

“Do you run many big news stories?”

“Sometimes; not often. The _Globe_ goes very light on local news. They
play up the telegraph on this paper because we go into Texas and
Arkansas and Louisiana and all these other States around here. We use
$400,000 worth of telegraph news here every year,” and he said it as
though he were part owner of the paper. I liked him very much.

I opened my eyes at this news and thought dubiously of it in relation to
my own work. It did not promise much for a big feature, on which I might
spread myself.

We talked on, becoming more and more friendly. In spite of the city
editor, whom I did not like, I now began to like this place, although I
could feel that these men were more or less browbeaten, held down and
frozen. The room was much too quiet for a healthy Western reportorial
room, the atmosphere too chill.

We talked of St. Louis, its size (450,000), its principal hotels, the
Southern, the Lindell and the La Clede (I learned that its oldest and
best, the Planter, had recently been torn down and was going to be
rebuilt some day), what were the chief lines of news. It seemed that
fires, murders, defalcations, scandals were here as elsewhere the great
things, far over-shadowing most things of national and international
import. Recently a tremendous defalcation had occurred, and this new
acquaintance of mine had been working on it, had “handled it alone,” as
he said. Like all citizens of an American city he was pro-St. Louis,
anxious to say a good word for it. The finest portion of it, he told me,
was in the west end. I should see the wonderful new residences and
places. There was a great park here, Forrest, over fourteen hundred
acres in size, a wonderful thing. A new bridge was building in north St.
Louis and would soon be completed, one that would relieve traffic on the
Eads Bridge and help St. Louis to grow. There was a small city over the
river in Illinois, East St. Louis, and a great Terminal Railroad
Association which controlled all the local railroad facilities and taxed
each trunk line six dollars a car to enter and each passenger
twenty-five cents. “It’s a great graft and a damned shame, but what can
you do?” was his comment. Traffic on the Mississippi was not so much
now, owing to the railroads that paralleled it, but still it was
interesting.

The already familiar noise of a roll-top desk broke in upon us from the
next room, and I noticed a hush fall on the room. What an atmosphere! I
thought. After a few moments of silence my new friend turned to me and
whispered very softly:

“That’s Tobe Mitchell, the city editor, coming in. He’s a proper ——, as
you’ll find.” He smiled wisely and began scribbling again.

“He didn’t look so pleasant to me,” I replied as softly.

“I’ve quit here twice,” he whispered. “The next time I go I won’t come
back. I don’t have to stay here, and he knows it. I can get a job any
day on the _Chronicle_, and wouldn’t have to work so hard either. That’s
an evening paper. I stay here because I like a morning paper better,
that’s all. There’s more to it. Everything’s so scrappy and kicked
together on an evening paper. But he doesn’t say much to me any more,
although he doesn’t like me. You’d think we were a lot of kids, and this
place a schoolroom.” He frowned.

We dropped into silence again. I did not like this thought of difficulty
thrust upon me. What a pity a man like McEnnis was not here!

“He doesn’t look like much of a newspaper man to me,” I observed.

“And he isn’t either. McCullagh has him here because he saved his life
once in a fight somewhere, down in Texas, I think—or that’s what they
tell me.”

We sat and read; the sound of city life below had died out and one could
hear the scratching of reporters’ pens. Assignments were written up and
turned in, and then the reporters idled about, dangling their legs from
spring-back chairs, smoking pipes and whispering. As the clock
registered eleven-thirty the round body of Mitchell appeared in the
doorway, his fair-tinted visage darkened by a faint scowl.

“You boys can go now,” he pronounced solemnly.

All arose, I among them, and went to a closet where were our hats and
overcoats. I was tired, and this atmosphere had depressed me. What a
life! Had I come down here for this? The thought of the small news end
which the local life received depressed me also. I could not see how I
was to make out.

I went down to a rear elevator, the only one running at this time of
night, and came out into the dark street, where a carriage was waiting.
I assumed that this must be for the famous editor. It looked so
comfortable and sedate, waiting at the door in the darkness for an
editor who, as I later learned, might not choose to leave until two. I
went on to my little room at the hotel, filled with ideas of how, some
day, I should be a great editor and have a carriage waiting for me. Yes;
I felt that I was destined for a great end. For the present I must be
content to look around for a modest room where I could sleep and bide my
time and opportunity.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XVIII


I FOUND a room the next morning in Pine Street, only a few doors from
this hotel and a block from my new office. It was a hall bedroom, one of
a long series which I was to occupy, dirty and grimy. I recall it still
with a sickening sense of its ugliness; and yet its cheapness and
griminess did not then trouble me so much. Did I not have the
inestimable boon of youth and ambition, which make most material details
unimportant? Some drab of a woman rented it to me, and outside were
those red, yellow, blue, green and orange street-cars clanging and
roaring and wheezing by all night long. Inside were four narrow gray
walls, a small wooden bed, none too clean sheets and pillow-cases, a
yellow washstand. I brought over my bag, arranged the few things I
thought need not be kept under lock and key, and returned to the
streets. I need not bother about the office until twelve-thirty, when
the assignments were handed out—or “the book,” as Hartung reverently
called it, was laid out for our inspection.

And now, spread before me for my survey and entertainment was the great
city of St. Louis, and life itself as it was manifesting itself to me
through this city. This was the most important and interesting thing to
me, not my new position. Work? Well, that was important enough,
considering the difficulty I had had in securing it. What was more, I
was always driven by the haunting fear of losing this or any other
position I had ever had, of not being able to find another (a left-over
fear, perhaps, due to the impression that poverty had made on me in my
extreme youth). Just the same, the city came first in my imagination and
desires, and I now began to examine it with care, its principal streets,
shops, hotels, its residence district. What a pleasure to walk about, to
stare, to dream of better days and great things to come.

Just at this time St. Louis seemed to be upon the verge of change and
improvement. An old section of mansions bordering on the business center
was rapidly giving way to a rabble of small stores and cheap factories.
Already several new buildings of the Chicago style of skyscraper were
either contemplated or in process of construction. There was a new club,
the Mercantile, the largest in the city, composed entirely of merchants
in the downtown section, which had just been opened and about which the
papers were making a great stir. There was a new depot contracted for,
one of the finest in all the country, so I was told, which was to house
all the roads entering the city. A new city hall was being talked of, an
enormous thing-to-be. Out in the west end, where progress seemed the
most vital, were new streets and truly magnificent residence “places,”
parked and guarded areas these, in which were ranged many residences of
the ultra-rich. The first time I saw one of these _places_ I was
staggered by its exclusive air and the beauty and even grandeur of some
of the great houses in it—newly manufactured exclusiveness. Here were
great gray or white or brownstone affairs, bright, almost gaudy, with
great verandas, astonishing doorways, flights of stone steps, heavily
and richly draped windows, immense carriage-houses, parked and flowered
lawns.

By degrees I came to know the trade and poor sections of the city. Here
were long throbbing wholesale streets, crowded with successful
companies; along the waterfront was a mill area backed up by wretched
tenements, as poor and grimy and dingy as any I have ever seen;
elsewhere were long streets of middle-class families, all alike, all
with white stone doorsteps or windowsills and tiny front yards.

The atmosphere of the _Globe-Democrat_ after a time came to have a
peculiar appeal for me because it was dominated so completely by the
robust personality of McCullagh. He was so natural, unaffected, rugged.
As time passed he steadily grew in my estimation and by degrees, as I
read his paper, his powerful, brilliant editorials, and saw how
systematically and forcefully he managed all things in connection with
himself and his men, the very air of St. Louis became redolent of him.
He was a real force, a great man. So famous was he already that men came
to St. Louis from the Southwest and elsewhere just to see him and his
office. I often think of him in that small office, sitting waist-deep
among his papers, his heavy head sunk on his pouter-like chest, his feet
incased in white socks and low slipper-like shoes, his whole air one of
complete mental and physical absorption in his work. A few years later
he committed suicide, out of sheer weariness, I assume, tired of an
inane world. Yet it was not until long after, when I was much better
able to judge him and his achievements, that I understood what a really
big thing he had done: built up a journal of national and even
international significance in a region which, one would have supposed,
could never have supported anything more than a mediocre panderer to
trade interests. As Hazard had proudly informed me, the annual bill for
telegraph news alone was $400,000: a sum which, in the light of
subsequent journalistic achievements in America, may seem insignificant
but which at that time meant a great deal. He seemed to have a desire to
make the paper not only good (as that word is used in connection with
newspapers) but great, and from my own memory and impression I can
testify that it was both. It had catholicity and solidity in editorials
and news. The whole of Europe, as well as America, was combed and
reflected in order that his readers might be entertained and retained,
and each day one could read news of curious as well as of scientific
interest from all over the world. Its editorials were in the main wise
and jovial, often beautifully written by McCullagh himself. Of assumed
Republican tendencies, it was much more a party leader than follower,
both in national and in State affairs. The rawest of raw youths, I
barely sensed this at the time, and yet I felt something of the wonder
and beauty of it all. I knew him to be a great man because I could feel
it. There was something of dignity and force about all that was
connected with him. Later it became a fact of some importance to me that
I had been called to a paper of so much true worth, by a man so wise, so
truly able.

The only inharmonious note at this time was my intense loneliness. In
Chicago, in spite of the gradual breaking up of our home and the
disintegration of the family, I had managed to build up that spiritual
or imaginative support which comes to all of us from familiarity with
material objects. I had known Chicago, its newspaper world, its various
sections, its places of amusement, some dozen or two of newspaper men.
Here I knew no one at all.

And back in Chicago there had been Alice and N—— and K——, whereas here
whom had I? Alice was a living pain for years, for in my erratic way I
was really fond of her. I am of that peculiar disposition, which will
not let memories of old ties and old pleasures die easily. I suffer for
things which might not give another a single ache or pain. Alice came
very close to me, and now she was gone. Without any reasonable
complaint, save that I was slightly weary, did not care for her as much
as I had, and that my mind was full of the world outside and my future,
I had left her. It had not been more than four weeks since I had visited
her in her little _parlor_ in Chicago, sipping of those delights which
only youth and ecstatic imagination can conjure; now I was three hundred
miles away from her kisses and the warmth of her hands. At the same time
there was this devil or angel of ambition which quite in spite of myself
was sweeping me onward. I fancied some vast Napoleonic ending for
myself, which of course was moonshine. I could not have gone back to
Chicago then if I had wished; it was not spiritually possible. Something
within kept saying “On—on!” Besides, it would have done no good. The
reaction would have been more irritating than the pain it satisfied. As
it was, I could only walk about the city in this chilling November
weather and speculate about myself and Alice and N—— and K—— and my own
future. What an odd beginning, I often thought to myself. Scandalous,
perhaps, in one so young: three girls in as many years, two of them
deeply and seriously wounded by me.

“I shall write to her,” I thought. “I will ask her to come down here. I
can’t stand this. She is too lovely and precious to me. It is cruel to
leave her so.”

There is this to be said for me in regard to my not writing to her: I
was uncertain as to the financial practicability of it. In Chicago I had
been telling her of my excellent position, boasting that I was making
more than I really was. So long as I was there and not married the
pretense could easily be sustained. Here, three hundred miles away,
where she would and could not come unless I was prepared to support her,
it was a different matter. To ask her now meant a financial burden which
I did not feel able, or at least willing, to assume. No doubt I could
have starved her on twenty dollars a week; had I been desperately swayed
by love I would have done so. I could even have had her, had I so
chosen, on conditions which did not involve marriage; but I could not
bring myself to do this. I did not think it quite fair. I felt that she
would have a just claim to my continuing the relation with her.... And
outside was the wide world. I told myself that I would marry her if I
had money. If she had not been of a soft yielding type she could easily
have entrapped me, but she had not chosen to do so. Anyhow, here I was,
and here I stayed, meditating on the tragedy of it all.

By this time of course it is quite obvious that I was not an ethically
correct and moral youth, but a sentimental boy of considerable range of
feeling who, facing the confusing evidences of life, was not prepared to
accept anything as final. I did not know then whether I believed that
the morality and right conduct preached by the teachers of the world
were important or not. The religious and social aphorisms of the day had
been impressed upon me, but they did not stick. Something whispered to
me that apart from theory there was another way which the world took and
which had little in common with the strait and narrow path of the
doctrinaires. Not all men swindle in little things, or lie or cheat, but
how few fail to compromise in big ones. Perhaps I would not have
deliberately lied about anything, at least not in important matters, and
I would not now under ordinary circumstances after the one experience in
Chicago have stolen. Beyond this I could not have said how I would have
acted under given circumstances. Women were not included in my moral
speculations as among those who were to receive strict justice—not
pretty women. In that, perhaps, I was right: they did not always wish
it. I was anxious to meet with many of them, as many as I might, and I
would have conducted myself as joyously as their own consciences would
permit. That I was to be in any way punished for this, or that the world
would severely censure me for it, I did not yet believe. Other boys did
it; they were constantly talking about it. The world—the world of youth
at least—seemed to be concerned with libertinage. Why should not I be?


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XIX


NO picture of these my opening days in St. Louis would be of the
slightest import if I could not give a fairly satisfactory portrait of
myself and of the blood-moods or so-called spiritual aspirations which
were animating me. At that time I had already attained my full height,
six feet one-and-one-half inches, and weighed only one hundred and
thirty-seven pounds, so you can imagine my figure. Aside from one eye
(the right) which was turned slightly outward from the line of vision,
and a set of upper teeth which because of their exceptional size were
crowded and so stood out too much, I had no particular blemish except a
general homeliness of feature. It was a source of worry to me all the
time, because I imagined that it kept me from being interesting to
women; which, apparently, was not true—not to all women at least.

Spiritually I was what might be called a poetic melancholiac, crossed
with a vivid materialistic lust of life. I doubt if any human being,
however poetic or however material, ever looked upon the scenes of this
world, material or spiritual, so called, with a more covetous eye. My
body was blazing with sex, as well as with a desire for material and
social supremacy—to have wealth, to be in society—and yet I was too
cowardly to make my way with women readily; rather, they made their way
with me. Love of beauty as such—feminine beauty first and foremost, of
course—was the dominating characteristic of all my moods: joy in the
arch of an eyebrow, the color of an eye, the flame of a lip or cheek,
the romance of a situation, spring, trees, flowers, evening walks, the
moon, the roundness of an arm or a hip, the delicate turn of an ankle or
a foot, spring odors, moonlight under trees, a lighted lamp over a dark
lawn—what tortures have I not endured because of these! My mind was
riveted on what love could bring me, once I had the prosperity and fame
which somehow I foolishly fancied commanded love; and at the same time I
was horribly depressed by the thought that I should never have them,
never; and that thought, for the most part, has been fulfilled.

In addition to this I was filled with an intense sympathy for the woes
of others, life in all its helpless degradation and poverty, the
unsatisfied dreams of people, their sweaty labors, the things they were
compelled to endure—nameless impositions, curses, brutalities—the things
they would never have, their hungers, thirsts, half-formed dreams of
pleasure, their gibbering insanities and beaten resignations at the end.
I have sobbed dry sobs looking into what I deemed to be broken faces and
the eyes of human failures. A shabby tumbledown district or doorway, a
drunken woman being arraigned before a magistrate, a child dying in a
hospital, a man or woman injured in an accident—the times unbidden tears
have leaped to my eyes and my throat has become parched and painful over
scenes of the streets, the hospitals, the jails! I have cried so often
that I have felt myself to be a weakling; at other times I have been
proud of them and of my great rages against fate and the blundering,
inept cruelty of life. If there is a God, conscious and personal, and He
considers the state of man and the savagery of His laws and His
indifferences, how He must smile at little insect man’s estimate of Him!
It is so flattering, so fatuously unreasoning, that only a sardonic
devil could enjoy it.

I was happy enough in my work although at times despondent lest all the
pleasures that can come to youth from health, courage, wealth and
opportunity should fail me while I was working and trying to get
somewhere. I had health yet I imagined I had not because I was not a
Sandow, an athlete, and my stomach, due to an undiscovered appendix,
gave me some trouble. As to courage, when I examined myself in that
direction I fancied that I had none at all. Would I slip out if a
dangerous brawl were brewing anywhere? Certainly. Well, then, I was a
coward. Could I stand up and defend myself against a man of my own
height and weight? I doubted it, particularly if he were well-trained.
In consequence, I was again a coward. There was no hope for me among
decently courageous men. Could I play tennis, baseball, football? No;
not successfully. Assuredly I was a weakling of the worst kind. Nearly
everybody could do those things, and nearly all youths were far more
proficient in all the niceties of life than was I: manners, dancing,
knowledge of dress and occasions. Hence I was a fool. The dullest
athlete of the least proficiency could overcome me; the most minute
society man, if socially correct, was infinitely my superior. Hence what
had I to hope for? And when it came to wealth and opportunity, how poor
I seemed! No girl of real beauty and force would have anything to do
with a man who was not a success; and so there I was, a complete failure
to begin with.

The aches and pains that went with all this, the amazing depression, all
but suicidal. How often have I looked into comfortable homes and wished
that some kindly family would give me shelter! And yet half knowing that
had it been offered I would have refused it. How often have I looked
through the windows of some successful business firm and wished I had
achieved ownership or stewardship, a position similar to that of any of
the officers and managers inside! To be president or vice-president or
secretary of something, some great thrashing business of some kind.
Great God, how sublime it seemed! And yet if I had only known how
centrally controlling the tool of journalism could be made! It mattered
not then that I was doing fairly well, that most of my employers had
been friendly and solicitous as to my welfare, that the few girls I had
approached had responded freely enough—still I was a failure.

I rapidly became familiar with the city news department of the
_Globe-Democrat_. Its needs, aside from great emergencies, were simple
enough: interviews, the doings of conventions of various kinds
(wholesale grocers, wholesale hardware men, wholesale druggists), the
plans of city politicians when those could be discovered, the news of
the courts, jails, city hospitals, police courts, the deaths of
well-known people, the goings-on in society, special functions of one
kind and another, fires, robberies, defalcations. For the first few
weeks nothing of importance happened. I was given the task evenings of
looking in at the North Seventh Street police station, a slow district,
to see if anything had happened, and was naturally able to add to my
depression by contemplating the life about there. Again, I attended
various churches to hear sermons, interviewed the Irish boss of the
city, Edward Butler, an amazing person with a head like that of a gnome
or ogre, who immediately took a great fancy to me and wanted me to come
and see him again (which I did once).

He has always stuck in my mind as one of the odd experiences of my life.
He lived in a small red brick family dwelling just beyond the
prostitution area of St. Louis, which stretched out along Chestnut
Street between Twelfth and Twenty-second, and was the city’s sole
garbage contractor (out of which he was supposed to have made countless
thousands) as well as one of its principal horse-shoers, having many
blacksmithing shops, and was incidentally its Democratic or Republican
boss, I forget which, a position he retained until his death.

I first saw him at a political meeting during my first few weeks in St.
Louis, and the manner in which he arose, the way in which he addressed
his hearers, the way in which they listened to him, all impressed me.
Subsequently, being sent to his house, I found him in his small front
parlor, a yellow plush album on the marble-topped center table,
horse-hair furniture about the room, a red carpet, crayon enlargements
of photographs of his mother and father. But what force in the man! What
innate gentility of manner and speech! He seemed like a prince disguised
as a blacksmith.

“So ye’ve come to interview me,” he said soothingly. “Ye’re from the
_Globe-Democrat_—well, that paper’s no particular friend of mine, but ye
can’t help that, can ye?” and then he told me whatever it was I wanted
to know, giving me no least true light, you may be sure. At the
conclusion he offered me a drink, which I refused. As I was about to
leave he surveyed me pleasantly and tolerantly.

“Ye’re a likely lad,” he said, laying an immense hand on one of my lean
shoulders, “and ye’re jest startin’ out in life, I can see that. Well,
be a good boy. Ye’re in the newspaper business, where ye can make
friends or enemies just as ye choose, and if ye behave yerself right ye
can just as well make friends. Come an’ see me some time. I like yer
looks. I’m always here av an evenin’, when I’m not attendin’ a meetin’
av some kind, right here in this little front room, or in the kitchen
with me wife. I might be able to do something fer ye sometime—remember
that. I’ve a good dale av influence here. Ye’ll have to write what ye’re
told, I know that, so I won’t be offended. So come an’ see me, an’
remember that I want nothin’ av ye,” and he gently ushered me out and
closed the door behind me.

But I never went, at least not for anything for myself. The one time I
asked him for a position for a friend who wanted to work on the local
street-cars as a conductor he wrote across the letter: “Give this man
what he wants.” It was wretchedly scrawled (the man brought it back to
me before presenting it) and was signed “edward butler.” But the man was
given the place at once.

Although Butler was an earnest Catholic, he was supposed to control and
tax the vice of the city; which charge may or may not have been true.
One of his sons owned and managed the leading vaudeville house in the
city, a vulgar burlesque theater, at which the ticket taker was Frank
James, brother of the amazing Jesse who terrorized Missouri and the
Southwest as an outlaw at one time and enriched endless dime novel
publishers afterward. As dramatic critic of the _Globe-Democrat_ later I
often saw him. Butler’s son, a more or less stodgy type of Tammany
politician, popular with a certain element in St. Louis, was later
elected to Congress.

I wrote up a labor meeting or two, and at one of these saw for the first
time Terence V. Powderly, the head of the dominant labor
organization—the Knights of Labor. This meeting was held in a dingy hall
at Ninth or Tenth and Walnut, a dismal institution known as the
Workingman’s Club or some such thing as that, which had a single red
light hanging out over its main entrance. This long, lank leader,
afterward so much discussed in the so-called “capitalistic press,” was
sitting on a wretched platform surrounded by local labor leaders and
discussed in a none too brilliant way, I thought, the need of a closer
union between all classes of labor.

In regard to all matters relating to the rights of labor and capital I
was at this time perfectly ignorant. Although I was a laborer myself in
a fair sense of the word I was more or less out of sympathy with
laborers, not as a class struggling for their “rights” (I did not know
what their rights or wrongs were) but merely as individuals. I thought,
I suppose, that they were not quite as _nice_ as I was, not as refined
and superior in their aspirations, and therefore not as worthy or at
least not destined to succeed as well as I. I even then felt dimly what
subsequently, after many rough disillusionments, I came to accept as a
fact: that some people are born dull, some shrewd, some wise and some
undisturbedly ignorant, some tender and some savage, _ad infinitum_.
Some are silk purses and others sows’ ears and cannot be made the one
into the other by any accident of either poverty or wealth. At this
time, however, after listening to Mr. Powderly and taking notes of his
speech, I came to the conclusion that all laborers had a just right to
much better pay and living conditions, and in consequence had a great
cause and ought to stick together. I also saw that Mr. Powderly was a
very shrewd man and something of a hypocrite, very simple-seeming and
yet not so. Something he said or did—I believe it was a remark to the
effect that “I always say a little prayer whenever I have a stitch in my
side”—irritated me. It was so suave, so English-chapel-people-like; and
he was an Englishman, as I recall it. Anyhow, I came away disliking him
and his local labor group, and yet liking his cause and believing in it,
and wrote as favorable a comment as I dared. The _Globe_ was not
pro-corporation exactly, at least I did not understand so, and yet it
was by no means pro-workingman either. If I recall correctly, it merely
gave the barest facts and let it go at that.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER XX


MY connection with the _Globe-Democrat_ had many aspects, chief among
which was my rapidly developing consciousness of the significance of
journalism and its relation to the life of the nation and the state. My
journalistic career had begun only five months before and preceding that
I had had no newspaper experience of any kind. The most casual reader of
a newspaper would have been as good as I in many respects.

But here I rather sensed the significance of it all, the power of a man
like McCullagh, for instance, for good or evil, the significance of a
man like Butler in this community. I still had a lot to learn: the
extent of graft in connection with politics in a city, the power of a
newspaper to make sentiment in a State and so help to carry it for a
Governor or a President. The political talk I heard on the part of one
newspaper man and another “doing politics,” as well as the leading
editorials in this and other papers, which just at this time were
concerned with a coming mayoralty fight and a feud in the State between
rival leaders of the Republican party, completely cleared up the
situation for me. I listened to all the gossip, read the papers
carefully, wondered over the personalities and oddities of State
governments in connection with our national government. Just over the
river in Illinois everybody was concerned with the administration of
John P. Altgeld, governor of the State, and whether he would pardon the
Chicago anarchists whose death sentences, recorded a few years before,
had been commuted to life imprisonment. On this side of the river
everybody was interested in the administration of William Joel Stone,
who was the governor. A man by the name of Cyrus H. Walbridge was
certain to be the next mayor if the Republicans won, and according to
the _Globe_, they ought to win because the city needed to be reformed.
The local Democratic board of aldermen was supposed to be the most
corrupt in all America (how many cities have yearly thought that, each
of its governing body, since the nation began!), and Edward Noonan, the
mayor, was supposed to be the lowest and vilest creature that ever stood
up in shoes. The chief editorials of the _Globe_ were frequently
concerned with blazing denunciations of him. As far as I could make out,
he had joined with various corporations and certain members of council
to steal from the city, sell its valuable franchises for a song and the
like. He had also joined with the police in helping bleed the saloons,
gambling dens and houses of prostitution. Gambling and prostitution were
never so rampant as now, so our good paper stated. The good people of
the city should join and help save the city from destruction.

How familiar it all sounds, doesn’t it? Well, this was 1892, and I have
heard the same song every year since, in every American city in which I
have ever been. Gambling, prostitution, graft, _et cetera_, must be
among our national weaknesses, not?

Just the same, in so far as this particular office and the country about
St. Louis were concerned, Joseph McCullagh was of immense significance
to his staff and the natives. Plainly he was like a god to many of them,
the farmers and residents in small towns in States like Texas, Iowa,
Missouri, Arkansas and in Southern Illinois, where his paper chiefly
circulated, for they came to the office whenever they were in the city
merely to get a glimpse of him. He was held in high esteem by his staff,
and was one of the few editors of his day who really deserved to be.
Within his office he had an adoring group of followers, which included
everyone from the managing editor down. “The chief says——,” “The chief
thinks——,” “The old man looks a little grouchy this morning—what do you
think?” “Gee, wait’ll the old man hears about that! He’ll be hopping!”
“That ought to please the old man, don’t you think? He likes a bit of
good writing.” Yet for all this chatter, “the old man” never seemed to
notice much of anything or have much to say to any one, except possibly
to one or two of his leading editorial writers and his telegraph editor.
If he ever conferred with his stout city editor for more than one moment
at a time I never saw or heard of it. And if anything seen or heard by
anybody in connection with him was not whispered about the reporters’
room before nightfall or daybreak it was a marvel of concealment.
Occasionally he might be seen ambling down the hall to the lavatory or
to the room of his telegraph chief, but most always it was merely to
take his carriage or walk to the Southern Hotel at one o’clock for his
luncheon or at six for his dinner, his derby hat pulled over his eyes,
his white socks gleaming, a cane in his hand, a cigar between his lips.
If he ever had a crony it was not known in the reporters’ room. He was a
solitary or eccentric, and a few years later, as I have said, he leaped
to his death from the second story window of his home, where he had
lived in as much privacy and singularity as a Catholic priest.

There were silent figures slipping about—Captain King, a chief editorial
writer; Casper S. Yost, a secretary of the corporation, assistant editor
and what not; several minor editors, artists, reporters, the city
editor, the business manager—but no one or all of them collectively
seemed to amount to a hill of beans. Only “the old man” or J. B., as he
was occasionally referred to, counted. Under him the paper had
character, succinctness and point, not only in its news but in its
editorial columns. Although it was among the conventional of the
conventional of its day (what American newspaper of that period could
have been otherwise?), still it had an awareness which made one feel
that “the old man” knew much more than he ever wrote. He seemed to like
to have it referred to as “the great religious daily” and often quoted
that phrase, but with the saving grace of humor behind it.

And he seemed to understand just how to supply that region with all it
desired in the shape of news. Though in the main the paper published
mere gossip, oddities about storms, accidents, eccentricities, still
there was something about the way the thing was done, the crisp and
brief manner in which the material was edited, which made it
palatable—very much so, I should say, to the small-town store-lounger or
owner—and nearly all had humor, naïveté or pathos. The drift of things
politically was always presented in leaders in such a way that even I, a
mere stripling, began to get a sense of things national and
international. States, the adjacent ones in particular, which supplied
the bulk of the _Globe’s_ circulation, were given special attention and
yet in such a way as not to irritate the general reader, leaving it
optional with him whether he should read or not. The editorials,
sometimes informing, sometimes threatening and directive, sometimes mere
fol-de-rol and foolery, and intended as such, had a delicious whimsy in
them. Occasionally “the old man” himself wrote one and then everybody
sat up and took notice. One could easily single it out even if it had
not been passed around, as it nearly always was. “The old man wrote
that.” “Have you read the old man’s editorial in this morning’s paper?
Gee! Read it!” Then you expected brilliant, biting words, a luminous
phraseology, sentences that cracked like a whip, and you were rarely
disappointed. The paragraphs exploded at times, burst like a torpedo; at
others the whole thing ended like music, the deep, sonorous bass of an
organ. “The old man” could write, there was no doubt of that. He also
seemed to believe what he wrote, for the time being anyhow. That was why
his staff, to a man, revered him. He was a real editor, as contrasted
with your namby-pamby “business man” masquerading as editor. He had been
a great reporter and war correspondent in his day, one of the men who
were with Farragut on the Mississippi and with Sherman and others
elsewhere during the great Civil War.

Wandering about this building at this time was an old red-faced,
red-nosed German, with a protuberant stomach, very genial, dull and
apparently unimportant. He was, as I later learned, the real owner of
the paper, the major portion of the stock being in his name; and yet, as
every one seemed to understand, he never dared pose as such but must
slip about, as much overawed as the rest of us. I was a mere underling
and new to the place, and yet I could see it. A more apologetic mien and
a more obliging manner was never worn by any mortal, especially when he
was in the vicinity of McCullagh’s office. His name was Daniel M.
Hauser. For the most part he wandered about the building like a ghost,
seeming to wish to be somebody or to say something but absolutely
without meaning. The short, stout Napoleonic editor ruled supreme.

                  *       *       *       *       *

By degrees I made friends with a number of those that worked here: Bob
Hazard; Jock Bellairs, son of the Captain Bellairs who presided over the
city zoo; Charlie Benson, and a long list of others whose names escape
me now. Of all those on the city staff I was inclined to like Hazard
most, for he was a personage, a character, quick, gay, intellectual,
literary, forceful. Why he never came to greater literary fame I do not
know, for he seemed to have all the flair and feeling necessary for the
task. He was an only son of some man who had long been a resident of St.
Louis and was himself well known about town. He lived with a mother and
sister in southwest St. Louis in a small cottage which always pleased me
because of its hominess, and supported that mother and sister in loyal
son-like fashion. I had not been long on the paper before I was invited
there to dinner, and this in spite of a rivalry which was almost
immediately and unconsciously set up between us the moment I arrived and
which endured in a mild way even after our more or less allied literary
interests had drawn us socially together. At his home I met his sister,
a mere slip of a tow-headed girl, whom later on I saw in vaudeville as a
headliner. Hazard I encountered years later as a blasé correspondent in
Washington, representing a league of papers. He had then but newly
completed a wild-West thriller, done in cold blood and with an eye to a
quick sale. Assuming that I had influence with publishers and editors,
he invoked my aid. I gave him such advice and such letters as I could.
But only a few months later I read that Robert Hazard, well-known
newspaper correspondent, living with his wife and child in some
Washington residence section, had placed a revolver to his temple and
ended it all. Why, I have often wondered. He was seemingly so well
fitted mentally and physically to enjoy life.... Or is it mental fitness
that really kills the taste for life?

I would not dwell on him at such length save for some other things which
I propose later to narrate. For the moment I wish to turn to another
individual, “Jock” Bellairs, who impressed me as a most curious compound
of indifference, wisdom, literary and political sense and a hard social
cunning. He had a capacity for (as some one in the office once phrased
it) a “lewd and profane life.” He was the chief police reporter at a
building known as the “Four Courts,” an institution which housed, among
other things, four judicial chambers of differing jurisdiction, as well
as the county jail, the city detention wards, the office of the district
attorney, the chief of police, chief of detectives, the city attorney,
and a “reporters’ room” where all the local reporters were permitted to
gather and were furnished paper, ink, tables.

A more dismal atmosphere than that which prevailed in this building, and
in similar institutions in all the cities in which I ever worked, would
be hard to find. In Chicago it was the city hall and county courthouse,
with its police attachment; in Pittsburgh the county jail; in New York
the Tombs and Criminal Courts Building, with police headquarters as a
part of its grim attachment. I know of nothing worse. These places,
essential as they are, are always low in tone, vile, and defile nearly
all they touch. They have a corrupting effect upon those with whom they
come in contact and upon those who are employed to administer law or
“justice.” Harlots, criminals, murderers, buzzard lawyers, political
judges, detectives, police agents, and court officials generally—what a
company! I have never had anything to do with one of these institutions
in any city as reporter, plaintiff or assisting friend, without sensing
anew the brutality and horror of legal administration. The petty
tyrannies that are practiced by underlings and minor officials! The
“grafting” of low, swinish brains! The tawdry pomp of ignorant
officials! The cruelty and cunning of agents of justice! “Set a thief to
catch a thief.” Clothe these officials as you will, in whatsoever
uniforms of whatsoever splendor or sobriety; give them desks of rosewood
and walls of flowered damask; entitle them as you choose, High and
Mightiness This and That—still they remain the degraded things they have
always been, equals of the criminals and the crimes they are supposed to
do away with. It cannot be helped; it is a law of chemistry, of
creation. Offal breeds maggots to take care of it, to nullify its
stench; carrion has its buzzards, carrion crows and condors. So with
criminals and those petty officials of the lower courts and jails who
are set to catch them.

But this is a wandering paragraph and has little to do with “Jock”
Bellairs, except that he was of and yet not of this particular
atmosphere. The first time I saw him I felt compelled to study him, for
he seemed somehow to suggest this atmosphere to which he was appointed
as reporter. He was in a way, and yet with pleasing reservations, the
man for this task. He had a sense of humor and a devil-may-care approach
to all this. Whenever anything of real import broke loose he was always
the one to be called upon for information or aid, because he was in
close touch with the police and detectives, who were his cronies and
ready to aid him. And whenever anything happened that was beyond his
power to manage he called up the office for aid. On more than one
occasion, some “mystery” coming up, I was the one delegated to help him,
the supposition being that it was likely to yield a “big” story, bigger
than he had time for, being a court fixture. I then sought him out at
the Four Courts and was given what he knew, whereupon I began
investigations on my own account. Nearly always I found him lolling
about with other reporters and detectives, a chair tilted back, possibly
a game of cards going on between him and the reporters of other papers,
a bottle of whisky in his pocket—“to save time,” as he once amusingly
remarked—and a girl or two present, friends of one or other of these
newspaper men, their “dollies.” He would rise and explain to me just
what was going on, whisper confidentially in my ear the name of some
other newspaper man who had been put on the case by one of the other
papers, perhaps ask me to mention the name of some shabby policeman or
detective who had been assigned to the case, one who was “a good fellow”
and who could be depended upon to help us in the future.

I often had to smile, he was so naïve and yet so wise in his position,
so matter-of-fact and commonplace about it all. Sometimes he would give
me the most befuddling information as to how the news got out: he and
John Somebody or Other were down at Maggie Sanders’s place in Chestnut
Street the other night, where he heard from a detective, who was telling
somebody else, who told somebody else, and so on. Then, if there was a
prisoner in the case, he would take me to him, or tell me where some
individual or the body was to be found if there was a body. Then, after
I had gone about my labors, he would return to his card-game, his girl
and his bottle. There were stories afloat of outings with these girls,
or the using of some empty room in this building for immoral purposes,
with the consent of complaisant officials. And all about, of course, was
this atmosphere of detained criminals, cases at trial, hurrying parents
and members of families, weeping mothers and sisters—a mess.

On an average of twice a month during my stay in St. Louis I was called
to this building on one errand and another, and always I went with a
sicky and sinking sensation, and always I came away from it breathing a
sigh of relief. To me it was a horrible place, a pest-hole of suffering
and error and trickery, and yet necessary enough, I know.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXI


I WAS walking down the marble hall of our editorial floor one day not
long after I arrived when I noted on a door at its extreme end the
words: “Art Department.” The _Globe_ in Chicago had no art department,
at least I never discovered it. The mere word _art_, although I had no
real understanding of it, was fascinating to me. Was it not on every
tongue? A man who painted or drew was an artist; Doré was one, for
instance, and Rembrandt. (I classed the two together.) In Chicago I had
of course known that each paper should have an art department, and that
interested me in this one. What were artists like? I had never known
one.

Another day I was on my way to the lavatory when I discovered that I had
come away without the key, a duplicate of which every department
possessed. The art department door being nearest, I entered to borrow
theirs. Behold, three distinctive if not distinguished looking
individuals at work upon drawings laid upon drawing-boards. Two of these
looked up, the one nearest me with a look of criticism in his eye, I
thought. The one who answered me when I asked for the key, and who
swiftly arose to get it for me, was short and stocky, with bushy,
tramp-like hair and beard. There was something that savored of opera
bouffe about him, and yet, as I could see, he took himself seriously
enough. There was something pleasing in his voice too as he said,
“Certainly; here it is,” and smiled.

The one who had looked up at first and frowned but made no move was much
less cheery. I recall the long, thin, sallow face, the coal-black hair,
long and coarse, which was parted most carefully in the middle and
slicked down at the sides and back over the ears until it looked as
though it had been oiled, and the eyes, black and small and querulous
and petulant, as was the mouth, with drawn lines at each corner, as
though he had endured much pain. That long, loose, flowing black tie!
And that soft white or blue or green or brown linen shirt!—would any
Quartier Latin denizen have been without them? He had thin, pale bony
hands, long and graceful, and an air of “touch thou me not, O defiled
one.” The man appealed to and repelled me at a glance, appealing to me
much more later, and ever remained a human humoresque, something to
coddle, endure, decipher, laugh at. Surely Dick Wood, or “Richard Wood,
Artist,” as his card read, might safely be placed in any pantheon of the
unconventionally ridiculous and delicious.

This visit provided a mere glance, however. When I returned the key I
was given no encouragement. A little later, my ability to write having
been fairly established, I was given a rather large order for one so
new: a double-page spread, with illustrations, for the Sunday issue,
relating to the new depot then under construction. I was told to see
that the art department supplied several drawings—one in particular of a
proposed iron and glass train-shed which was to cover thirty-two tracks.
Also one of a clock-tower two hundred and thirty-two feet high. This
assignment seemed a very honorable one, since it was to carry drawings,
and I went about it with energy and enthusiasm. It was Mitchell who told
me to look to the art department for suitable illustrations.

Evidently the art department knew all about it before my arrival, for
upon inquiry I found that P. B. McCord, he of the tramp-like hair and
whiskers, was scheduled to make the pictures. His manner pleased me. He
was so cordial, so helpful. Together we visited the depot, and a few
days later he called upon me in the reportorial room to ask me to come
and see what he had done. Having in regard to most things the same point
of view, we were soon the best of friends. A more or less affectionate
relationship was then and there established, which endured until his
death sixteen years later. During all of that period we were scarcely
out of touch with each other, and through him I was destined to achieve
some of my sanest conceptions of life. (See _Peter_. Twelve Men.)

And the amazing Wood! I have never encountered another like him,
possibly because for years I have not been associated with young people,
who are frequently full of eccentricities. A more romantic ass than Wood
never lived, nor one with better sense in many ways. In regard to
newspaper drawing he was only a fairly respectable craftsman, if so
much, but in other ways he was fascinating enough. He and McCord were
compelled at that time to use the old chalk plate process for much of
their hurried work, a thing which required the artist to scratch with a
steel upon a chalk-covered surface, blowing the chalk away from his
outlines as he made them. This created a dust which both McCord and Wood
complained of as being disagreeable and “hard on the lungs.” Wood, who
pretended to be dying of consumption, and did die of it sixteen years
later within a month of his friend McCord, made an awful row about it,
although he could easily have done much to mend matters by taking a
little exercise and keeping out of doors as much as possible; but he
preferred to hover over a radiator or before a fire. Always, on every
occasion, he was given to playing the rôle of the martyr.

Spiritually he was morbid, as was I, only he showed it much more in his
manner. He had much the same desire as I had at the time: to share in
the splendors of marble halls and palaces and high places generally;
and, like myself, he had but little chance. Fresh from Bloomington,
Illinois, a commonplace American town, he was obsessed by the
commonplace dream of marrying rich and coming into the imaginary
splendors of that west end life of St. Louis which was so interesting to
both of us. Far more than myself, I am sure, he seemed to be seething
with an inward rebellion against the fact that he was poor, not included
in the exclusive pleasures of the rich. At the same time he was glowing
with a desire to make other people imagine that he was or soon would be
of them. What airs! what shades of manner! He, like myself, was forever
dreaming of some gorgeous maiden, rich, beautiful, socially elect, who
was to solve all his troubles for him. But there was this difference
between us, or so I imagined at the time, Dick being an artist, rather
remote and disdainful in manner and handsome as well as poetic and
better-positioned than myself, as I fancied, was certain to achieve this
gilded and crystal state whereas I, not being so handsome, nor an
artist, nor sufficiently poetic, could hardly aspire to so gorgeous an
end. I might perchance arrive at some such goal if I sought it eagerly
enough, but the probabilities were that I should not unless I waited a
long while, and besides, my dreams and plans varied so swiftly from day
to day that I couldn’t be sure what I wanted to do, whereas Wood, being
so stable in this, that and the other (all the things I was not), was
certain to arrive quickly.

Sometimes around dinner time when I would see him leaving the office
arrayed in the latest mode, as I assumed—dark blue suit, patent leather
boots, dark, round, soft felt hat, loose tie blowing idly about his
neck, neat thin cane in his hand—I was fairly convinced that this
much-anticipated fortune had already arrived or was about to arrive,
this very evening perhaps, and that I should never see him more, never
even be permitted to speak to him. Somewhere (out in the west end, of
course) was _the_ girl, wondrous, rich, beautiful, with whom he was to
elope and be forgiven by her wealthy parents. Even now he was on his way
to her, while I, poor oaf that I was, was moiling here over some trucky
task. Would my ship never come in, my great day arrive?

And Wood was just the type of person who would take infinite delight in
creating such an impression. Ten years later, when McCord and I were in
the East together and Wood was still in St. Louis, we were never weary
of discussing this histrionic characteristic of his, laughing
sympathetically with and at him. Later he married—but I shall not
anticipate. Mentally, at this time, he was living a dream and in so far
as possible acting it, playing the part of some noble Algernon Charles
Claude Vere de Vere, heir to or affianced to some maid with an immense
fortune which was to make them both eternally happy and allow him to
travel, pose, patronize as he chose. A laudable dream, verily.

But I—I confess that I was bitter with envy. What, never to shine thus?
Never to be an artist? Never to have beauty in my lap? For me there were
other stings, in connection with him—stings sharp as serpents’ teeth.
Dick had a wrist-watch, the envy of my youthful days (oh, wondrous
watch!) Also a scarf pin made of some strange stone brought from the
Orient and with a cabalistic sign or word on it (enough in itself to
entice any heiress)—-and that _boutonnière_ of violets! He was never
without them.

And along with all this, that sad, wan, reproachful, dying smile! And
that mysterious something of manner which seemed to say: “My boy! My
boy! The things you will never know!”

And yet after a time Dick condescended to receive me into his confidence
and into his “studio,” a very picturesque affair, situated in the heart
of the downtown district. Also he condescended to bestow upon me some of
his dreams as well as his friendly presence; a thing which exalted me,
being so new to this art world. I was _permitted_ (note the word) to
gather dimly, as neophyte from priest, the faintest outlines of these
wondrous dreams of his, and to share with him the hope that they might
be realized. I was so set up by this great favor that I felt certain
great things must flow from it. Assuredly we three could do great things
if only we would stick together. But was I worthy? There were already
rumors of books, plays, stories, poems, to come from a certain mighty
pen—as a matter of fact, it was already hard upon the task of writing
them—which were to set the world aflame by-and-by. Certain editors in
New York were already receiving (and sending back, alas!) certain
preliminary masterpieces along with carefully worded suggestions in
regard to slight but necessary changes which would perfect them and so
inaugurate the new era. Certain writers, certain poets, certain
playwrights were already better than any that had ever been—the best
ever, in short. Dick knew, of course, and I was allowed to share this
knowledge, to be thrilled by it.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXII


ONCE the ice was broken in this way intimacy with these twain came fast
enough, although I never became quite as intimate with Dick as I did
with Peter, largely because I could not think him as important. Wood had
some feminine characteristics; he could be very jealous of anybody’s
interest in Peter as well as Peter’s interest in anybody else. He was
big enough, at times, to see the pettiness of this and try to rise above
it, but at other times it would show. Years later McCord confided to me
in the most amused way how, when I first appeared on the scene, Dick at
once began to belittle me and to resent my obvious desire to “break in,”
as he phrased it, these two, according to Dick, having established some
excluding secret union.

But the union was not exclusive, in so far as Peter was concerned.
Shortly after my arrival young Hartung had begun running into the art
room (so Peter told me) with amazing tales of the new man, his exploits
in Chicago. I had been sent for to come to this paper—that was the great
thing. I was vouched for by no less a person than John T. McEnnis, one
of the famous newspaper men of St. Louis and a former city editor of
this same paper; also by a Mr. Somebody (the Washington correspondent of
the paper), for whom I had worked in Chicago on the World’s Fair. He had
hurried to the art department with his tales of me, wishing, I fancy, to
be on friendly and happy terms there. Dick, however, considered
Hartung’s judgment as less than nothing, himself an upstart, a mere
office rat; to have him endeavor to introduce anybody was too much. At
first he received me very coldly, then finding me perhaps better than he
thought, he hastened to make friends with me.

The halcyon hours with these two that followed. Not infrequently Peter
and Dick would dine together at some downtown restaurant; or, if a rush
of work were on and they were compelled to linger, they had a late
supper in some German saloon. It was Peter who first invited me to one
of these late séances, and later Wood did the same, but this last was
based on another development in connection with myself which I should
narrate here.

The office of the _Globe_ proved a sprouting-bed for incipient literary
talent. Hazard had, some fifteen or eighteen months before, in company
with another newspaper man of whom later I heard amazing things, written
a novel entitled _Theo_, which was plainly a bog-fire kindled by those
blazing French suns, Zola and Balzac. The scene was laid in Paris
(imagine two Western newspaper men who had never been out of America
writing a novel of French life and laying it in Paris!) and had much of
the atmosphere of Zola’s _Nana_, plus the delicious idealism of Balzac’s
_The Great Man from the Provinces_. Never having read either of these
authors at this time, I did not see the similarity, but later I saw it
plainly. One or both of these men had fed up on the French realists to
such an extent that they were able to create the illusion of France (for
me at least) and at the same time to fire me with a desire to create
something, perhaps a novel of this kind but preferably a play. It seemed
intensely beautiful to me at the time, this book, with its frank
pictures of raw, greedy, sensual human nature, and its open pictures of
self-indulgence and vice.

The way this came about was interesting but I would not relate it save
that it had such a marked effect on me. I was sitting in the city
reportorial room later one gloomy December afternoon, having returned
from a fruitless assignment, when a letter was handed me. It was
postmarked Chicago and addressed in the handwriting of Alice. Up to then
I had allowed matters to drift, having, as I have said, written but one
letter in which I apologized rather indifferently for having come away
without seeing her. But my conscience had been paining me so much that
when I saw her writing I started. I tore the letter open and read with a
sense of shame:

    “Dear Theo:

    “I got your letter the day you left, but then it was too late. I
    know what you say is true, about your being called away, and I
    don’t blame you. I’m only sorry our quarrel” (there had been
    none save of my making) “didn’t let you come to see me before
    you left. Still, that was my fault too, I guess. I can’t blame
    you entirely for that.

    “Anyhow, Theo, that isn’t what I’m writing you for. You know
    that you haven’t been just the same to me as you once were. I
    know how you feel. I have felt it too. I want to know if you
    won’t send me back the letters I wrote you. You won’t want them
    now. Please send them, Theo, and believe I am as ever your
    friend,

                                                            “ALICE.”

There was a little blank space on the paper, and then:

    “I stood by the window last night and looked out on the street.
    The moon was shining and those dead trees over the way were
    waving in the wind. I saw the moon on that little pool of water
    over in the field. It looked like silver. Oh, Theo, I wish I
    were dead.”

As I read this I jumped up and clutched the letter. The pathos of it cut
me to the quick. To think I should have left her so! To think I should
be here and she there! Why hadn’t I written? Why had I shilly-shallied
these many days? Of course she wished to die. And I—what of me?

I went over the situation and tried to figure out what I should do.
Should I send for her? Twenty dollars a week was very little for two. My
legitimate expenses made a total of eleven a week. I wished to keep
myself looking well, to have a decent room, to eat three fair meals a
day. And I was in no position to return to Chicago, where I had earned
less. Then my new friendships with Wood and McCord as well as with other
newspaper men, nearly all of whom liked to drink, were costing me
something extra; I could not associate with them without buying an
occasional drink. I did not see where I was to save much or how I could
support a wife. In addition, there was the newness of my position here.
I could not very well leave it now, having just come from Chicago. By
nature where things material of futurial were concerned I was timid, but
little inclined to battle for my rights or desires, and consequently not
often realizing them. I was in a trying situation, for I had, as I have
said, let it appear to Alice that money was no object. With the vanity
of youth, I had always talked of my good salary and comfortable
position, and now that this salary and comfortable position were to be
put to the test I did not know what to do about it. Honesty would have
dictated a heartfelt confession, of course.

But I made none. Instead I wavered between two horns of an
ever-recurring dilemma. Sympathizing with the pain which Alice was
suffering, and alive to my own loss of honor and happiness, still I
hesitated to pull down the fine picture of myself which I had so
artistically built up, to reveal myself as I really was, a man unable to
marry on his present salary. If I had loved her more, if I had really
respected her, if I had not looked upon her as one who might be so
easily put aside, I would have done something about it. My natural
tendency was to drift, to wait and see, suffering untold agonies in the
meanwhile. This I was preparing to do now.

These mental stresses were always sufficient, however, to throw me into
a soulful mood. And now as I looked out of the window on the “fast
widowing sky” it was with an ache that rivaled in intensity those
melancholy moods we sometimes find interpreted by music. Indeed my heart
was torn by the inextricable problems which life seemed ever to present
and I fairly wrung my hands as I looked into the face of the hurrying
world. How it was hastening away! How swiftly and insensibly my own life
was slipping by! The few sweets which I had thus far tasted were always
accompanied by such bitter repinings. No pleasure was without pain, as I
had already seen, and life offered no solution. Only silence and the
grave ended it all.

My body was racked with a fine tremor, my brain ached. I went to my desk
and took up a pencil. I sat looking into the face of the tangle as one
might into the gathering front of a storm. Words moved in my brain, then
bubbled, then marshaled themselves into curious lines and rhythms. I put
my pencil to paper and wrote line after line.

Presently I saw that I was writing a poem but that it was rough and
needed modifying and polishing. I was in a great fever to change it and
did so but more eager to go on with my idea, which was about this tangle
of life. I became so moved and interested that I almost forgot Alice in
the process. When I read it over it seemed but a poor reflection of the
thoughts I had felt, the great sad mood I was in. Then I sat there,
dissatisfied and unhappy, resolving to write Alice and tell her all.

I took a pen and wrote her that I could not marry her now, that I was in
no position to do so. Later, if I found myself in better shape
financially, I would come back. I told her that I did not want to send
back her letters, that I did not wish to think our love was at an end. I
had not meant to run away. I closed by saying that I still loved her and
that the picture she had painted of herself standing at the window in
the moonlight had torn my heart. But I could not write it as effectually
as I might have, for I was haunted by the idea that I should never keep
my word. Something kept telling me that it was not wise, that I didn’t
really want to.

While I was writing Hazard came into the room and glanced over my
shoulder to where the poem was lying. “What you doing, Dreiser? Writing
poetry?”

“Trying to,” I replied a little shamefacedly. “I don’t seem to be able
to make much of it, though.” The while I was wondering at the novelty of
being taken for a poet. It seemed such a fine thing to be.

“There’s no money in it,” he observed helpfully. “You can’t sell ’em.
I’ve written tons of ’em, but it don’t do any good. You’d better be
putting your time on a book or a play.”

A book or a play! I sat up. To be considered a writer, a dramatist—even
a possible dramatist—raised me in my own estimation. Why, at this rate I
might become one—who knows?

“I know it isn’t profitable,” I said. “Still, it might be if I wrote
them well enough. It would be a great thing to be a great poet.”

Hazard smiled sardonically. From his pinnacle of twenty-six years such
aspirations seemed ridiculous. I might be a good newspaper man (I think
he was willing to admit that), but a poet!

The discussion took the turn of book- and play-writing. He had written a
book in connection with Young, I think his name was. He had lately been
thinking of writing a play. He expatiated on the money there was to be
made out of this, the great name some playwrights achieved. Look at
Augustus Thomas now, who had once worked on the _Star_ here. One of his
pieces was then running in St. Louis. Look at Henry Blossom, once a St.
Louis society boy, one of whose books was now in the local bookstore
windows, a hit. To my excited mind the city was teeming with brilliant
examples. Eugene Field had once worked here, on this very paper; Mark
Twain had idled about here for a time, drunk and hopeless; W. C. Brann
had worked on and gone from this paper; William Marion Reedy the same.

I returned to my desk after a time, greatly stirred by this
conversation. My gloom was dissipated. Hazard had promised to let me
read this book. This world was a splendid place for talent, I thought.
It bestowed success and honor upon those who could succeed. Plays or
books, or both, were the direct entrance to every joy which the heart
could desire. Something of the rumored wonder and charm of the lives of
successful playwrights came to me, their studios, their summer homes and
the like. Here at last, then, was the equivalent of Dick’s wealthy girl!

I sat thinking about plays somewhat modified in my grief over Alice for
the nonce, but none the less aware of its tremendous sadness. I read
over my poem and thought it good, even beautiful. I must be a poet! I
copied it and put a duplicate in Alice’s letter, and folded my own copy
and put it in my pocket, close to my heart. It seemed as though I had
just forged a golden key to a world of beauty and light where sorrow and
want could never be.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XXIII


THE central character of Hazard’s book was an actress, young and very
beautiful. Her lover was a newspaper man, deeply in love with her and
yet not faithful, in one instance anyhow. This brought about a Zolaesque
scene in which she spanked another actress with a hairbrush. There was
treacherous plotting on the part of somebody in regard to a local
murder, which brought about the arrest and conviction of the newspaper
man for something he knew nothing about. This entailed a great struggle
on the part of Theo to save him, which resulted in her failure and his
death on the guillotine. A priest figured in it in some way, grim,
jesuitical.

To this day some of the scenes of this book come back to me as having
been forcefully done—the fight between the two actresses, for one thing,
a midnight feast with several managers, the gallows scene, a confession.
I am not sure of the name of the newspaper man who collaborated with
Hazard on this work, but the picture of his death in an opium joint
later, painted for me by Hazard, and the eccentricities of his daily
life, stand out even now as Poe-like. He must have been blessed or
cursed with some such temperament as that of Poe, dark, gloomy,
reckless, poetic, for he was a dope-fiend and died of dope.

Be that as it may, this posthumous work, never published, so far as I
know, was the opening wedge for me into the realm of realism. Being
distinctly imitative of Balzac and Zola, the method was new and to me
impressive. It has always struck me as curious that the first novel
written by an American that I read in manuscript should have been one
which by reason of its subject matter and the puritanic character of the
American mind could never be published. These two youths knew this.
Hazard handed it to me with the statement: “Of course a thing like this
could never be published over here. We’d have to get it done abroad.”
That struck me as odd at the time—the fact that if one wrote a fine
thing nevertheless because of an American standard I had not even
thought of before, one might not get it published. How queer, I thought.
Yet these two incipient artists had already encountered it. They had
been overawed to the extent of thinking it necessary to write of French,
not American life in terms of fact. Such things as they felt called upon
to relate occurred only in France, never here—or at least such things,
if done here, were never spoken of. I think it nothing less than tragic
that these men, or boys, fresh, forceful, imbued with a burning desire
to present life as they saw it, were thus completely overawed by the
moral hypocrisy of the American mind and did not even dare to think of
sending their novel to an American publisher. Hazard was deeply
impressed with the futility of attempting to do anything with a book of
that kind. The publishers wouldn’t stand for it. You couldn’t write
about life as it was; you had to write about it as somebody else thought
it was, the ministers and farmers and dullards of the home. Yet here he
was, as was I, busy in a profession that was hourly revealing the fact
that this sweetness and light code, this idea of a perfect world which
contained neither sin nor shame for any save vile outcasts, criminals
and vagrants, was the trashiest lie that was ever foisted upon an all
too human world. Not a day, not an hour, but the pages of the very
newspaper we were helping to fill with our scribbled observations were
full of the most incisive pictures of the lack of virtue, honesty,
kindness, even average human intelligence, not on the part of a few but
of nearly everybody. Not a business, apparently, not a home, not a
political or social organization or an individual but in the course of
time was guilty of an infraction of some kind of this seemingly perfect
and unbroken social and moral code. But in spite of all this, judging by
the editorial page, the pulpit and the noble mouthings of the average
citizen speaking for the benefit of his friends and neighbors, all men
were honest—only they weren’t; all women were virtuous and without evil
intent or design—but they weren’t; all mothers were gentle,
self-sacrificing slaves, sweet pictures for songs and Sunday
Schools—only they weren’t; all fathers were kind, affectionate, saving,
industrious—only they weren’t. But when describing actual facts for the
news columns, you were not allowed to indicate these things. Side by
side with the most amazing columns of crimes of every kind and
description would be other amazing columns of sweet mush about love,
undying and sacrificial, editorials about the perfection of the American
man, woman, child, his or her sweet deeds, intentions and the like—a
wonderful dose. And all this last in the face of the other, which was
supposed to represent the false state of things, merely passing
indecencies, accidental errors that did not count. If a man like Hazard
or myself had ventured to transpose a true picture of facts from the
news columns of the papers, from our own reportorial experiences, into a
story or novel, what a howl! Ostracism would have followed much more
swiftly in that day than in this, for today turgid slush approximating
at least some of the facts is tolerated. Fifteen years later Hazard told
me he still had his book buried in a trunk somewhere, but by then he had
turned to adventurous fiction, and a year later, as I have said, be blew
his brains out.

Just the same the book made a great impression on me! It gave me a great
respect for Hazard, made me really fond of him. And it fixed my mind
definitely on this matter of writing—not a novel, curiously, but a play,
a form which from the first seemed easier for me and which I still
consider so, one in which I work with greater ease than I do in the
novel. I mentioned to Wood and McCord that Hazard and another man had
written a novel and that I had read it. I must have enthused over it for
both were impressed, and I myself seemed to gain standing, especially
with Wood. It was generally admitted then that Hazard was one of the
best reporters in the city, and my being taken into his confidence in
this fashion seemed to Wood to be a significant thing.

And not long after that I had something else to tell these two which
carried great weight. There was at that time on the editorial page of
the paper a column entitled “Heard in the Corridors,” which was nothing
more than a series of imaginary interviews with passing guests at the
various hotels, or interviews condensed into short tales, about six to
the column, one at least being accredited to a guest at each of the
three principal hotels, the others standing accredited as things heard
at the Union Station or upon the street somewhere. Previous to my
arrival this column had been written by various men, the last one having
been the already famous W. C. Brann, then editor of the brilliant
_Iconoclast_. By the time I arrived, however, Brann had departed, and
the column had sagged. Hazard was doing a part of it, Bellairs another,
but both were tired of it. At first when I considered it (a little extra
work added to my daily reporting) I was not so pleased; indeed it seemed
an all but impossible thing to do. Later, however, after a trial, I
discovered that it gave free rein to my wildest imaginings, which was
exactly what I wanted. I could write any sort of story I pleased,
romantic, realistic or lunatic, and credit it to some imaginary guest at
one of the hotels, and if it was not too improbable it was passed
without comment. At any rate, when this was assigned to me I went forth
to get names of personages stopping at the hotels. I inquired for
celebrities. As a rule, the clerks could give me no information or were
indifferent, and seemed to take very little interest in having the hotel
advertised. I returned and racked my brain, decided that I could
manufacture names as well as stories, and forthwith scribbled six
marvels, attaching such names as came into my mind. The next day these
were all duly published and I was told to do the column regularly as
well as my regular assignments. My asinine ebullience had won me a new
task without any increase in pay.

However, it seemed an honor to have a whole column assigned to me, and
this honor I communicated to McCord and Wood. It was then that either
Wood or McCord informed me that Brann had done it previously and had
written snake stories for the paper into the bargain. This flattered me,
for they pictured him for what he was, a rare soul, and I felt myself
growing. Peter had illustrated some of these tales for him, for, as he
said with mock dignity: “I am the official snake artist of this paper.”
That very night, as a reward for my efficiency I was invited by Dick to
come to his room—_the_ room, the studio—where he inflicted about nine of
his horrible masterpieces upon me.

I would not make so much of this great honor if it were not for what it
meant to me then. The room was large and dark, on Broadway between
Market and Walnut, with the cars jangling below. It contained one great
white bed, a long table covered with the papers and literary
compositions of Mr. Richard Wood, and was decorated and reinforced with
that gentleman’s conception of what constituted literary insignia. On
the walls hung dusty engravings representing the death of Hamlet and the
tempting of Faust. In one corner, over a chest of drawers, was the
jagged blade of a sword-fish, and in another a most curious display of
oriental coins. The top of the wardrobe was surmounted by a gruesome
_papier-mâché_ head representing that somewhat demented creature known
in England as Ally Sloper. A clear space at one corner of the table held
a tin pail for carrying beer, and the floor, like the walls, was covered
with some dusty brown material which might once have been a carpet.
Owing to the darkness of the furnishings and the brightness of the fire,
the room had a very cheery look.

“Say, Dick, did you see where one of ——’s plays had made a great hit in
New York?” asked McCord. “He’s made a strike this time.”

“No,” replied Dick solemnly, poking among the coals of the grate and
drawing up a chair. “Sit down, Dreiser. Pull up a chair, Peter. This
confounded grate smokes whenever the wind’s from the South. Still
there’s nothing like a grate fire.”

We drew up chairs. I was revolving in my mind the charm of the room and
a vision of greatness in play-writing. These two men seemed subtly
involved with the perfection of the arts. In this atmosphere, with such
companions, I felt that I could accomplish anything, and soon.

“I’ll tell you how it is with the game of play-writing,” observed Dick
sententiously. “You have to have imagination and feeling and all that,
but what’s more important than anything is a little business sense, to
know how to get in with those fellows. You might have the finest play in
the world in your pocket, but if you didn’t know how to dispose of it
what good would it do you? None at all. You got to know that end first.”

He reached over and pulled the coal-scuttle into position as a footrest
and then looked introspectively at the ceiling.

“The play’s the thing,” put in Peter. “If you could write a real good
play you wouldn’t need to worry about getting it staged.”

“Aw, wouldn’t I? Listen to that now!” commented Dick irascibly. “I tell
you, Peter, you don’t know anything about it. You only think you do;
that’s all. Say, did Campbell have a good play in his pocket or didn’t
he? You betcher neck he did. Did he get it staged? No, you betcher boots
he didn’t. Don’t talk to me; I know.”

By his manner you would have thought he had a standing bone to pick with
Peter, but this was only his way. It made me laugh.

“Well, the play’s the first thing to worry about anyhow,” I observed. “I
wish I were in a position to write one.”

“Why don’t you try?” suggested McCord. “You ought to be able to do
something in that line. I bet you could write a good one.”

We fell to discussing dramatists. Peter, with his eye for gorgeous
effects, costuming and the like, immediately began to describe the
ballet effects and scenery of a comic opera laid in Algeria which was
then playing in St. Louis.

“You ought to go and see that, Dreiser,” he urged. “It’s something
wonderful. The effect of the balconies in the first act, with the
muezzins crying the prayers from the towers in the distance, is great.
Then the harmony of the color work in the stones of the buildings is
something exquisite. You want to see it.”

I felt myself glowing. This intimate conversation with men of such
marked artistic ability, in a room, too, which was the reflection of an
artist’s personality, raised my sense of latent ability to the highest
point. Not that I felt I was not fit to associate with these people—I
felt that I was more than fit, their equal at every point, conceal it as
I might—but it was something to come in touch with your own, to find
real friends to the manner born who were your equals and able to
sympathize with you and appreciate your every mood. A man who had found
such friends as these so quickly surely need never worry.

“I’ll tell you what I propose to do, Peter, while you people are
talking,” observed Dick. “I propose to go over to Frank’s and get a can
of beer. Then I’ll read you that story.”

This proposal to read a story was new to me; I had not heard Wood had
written one before. I looked at him more keenly, and a little flame of
envy leaped to life in me. To be able to write a short story—or any kind
of a story!

He went to his wardrobe, whence he extracted a medium-length black cape
of broadcloth, which he threw about his shoulders, and a soft hat which
he drew rakishly over his eyes, then took the tin pail and a piece of
money from a plate, after the best fashion of the artistic romances of
the day, and went out. I gazed admiringly after him, touched by the
romance of it all. That face, waxen, drawn, sensitive, with deep burning
eyes, and that frail body! That cape! That hat! That plate of coins!
Yes, this was Bohemia! I was now a part of that happy middle world which
was superior to wealth and poverty. I was in that serene realm where
moved freely talent, artistic ability, noble thought, ingenious action,
unhampered by conventional thought and conduct. A great man should so
live, an artist certainly. These two could and did do as they pleased.
They were not as others, but wise, sensitive, delicately responsive to
all that was best in life; and as yet the great world was not aware of
their existence!

Wood came back with the beer and then Peter insisted that he read us the
story. I noticed that there was something impish in his manner. He
assured me that all of Dick’s stories were masterpieces, every one; that
time alone was required for world-wide recognition.

Dick picked up a single manuscript from a heap. “I don’t want to inflict
this on you, Dreiser,” he said sweetly and apologetically. “We had
planned to do this before I knew you were coming.”

“That’s the way he always talks,” put in Peter banteringly. “Dick loves
to stage things. But they’re great stories just the same.”

I leaned back, prepared to be thrilled. Dick drew up his chair to the
table and adjusted a green-shaded gas lamp close to the table’s edge. He
then unfolded his MS. and began reading in a low, well-modulated,
semi-pathetic voice, which seemed very effective in the more sentimental
passages. Reverently I sat and listened. The tale was nothing, a mere
daub, but, oh, the wonder of it! Was I not in the presence and
friendship of artists? Was not this Bohemia? Had I not long heard and
dreamed of it? Well, then, what difference whether the tales were good
or bad? They were by one whom I was compelled to admire, an artist,
pale, sensitive, recessive, one who at the slightest show of inattention
or lack of appreciation might leave me and never see me more.

I listened to about nine without dying, declaring each and every one to
be the best I had ever heard—perfect.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXIV


FROM now on, because of this companionship, my life in St. Louis took on
a much more cheerful aspect. Hitherto, in spite of my work and my
natural interest in a strange city, I had had intensely gloomy moments.
My favorite pastime, when I was not out on an assignment or otherwise
busy, was to walk the streets and view the lives and activities of
others, not thinking so much how I might advantage myself and my affairs
as how, for some, the lightning of chance was always striking in
somewhere and disrupting plans, leaving destruction and death in its
wake, for others luck or fortune. I never was blinded to the gross
favoritism practiced by nature, and this I resented largely, it may be,
because it was not, or I thought it was not, practiced in my behalf.
Later in life I began to suspect that a gross favoritism, in regard to
certain things at least, was being practiced in my behalf. I was never
without friends, never without some one to do me a good turn at a
critical moment, never without love and the sacrifice of beauty on the
part of some one in my behalf, never without a certain amount of
applause or repute. Was I worthy of it? I knew I was not and I felt that
the powers that make and control life did not care two whoops whether I
was or not.

Life, as I had seen and felt from my earliest thinking period, used
people, sometimes to their advantage, sometimes not. Occasionally, as I
could see, I was used to my advantage as well as to that of some one or
something else. Occasionally I was used, as I thought, to my
disadvantage. Now and then when I imagined I was being used most
disadvantageously it was not so at all, as when for a period I found
myself unable to write and so compelled to turn to other things—a
turning which resulted in better material later on. At this time,
however, I felt that whatever the quality of the gifts handed me or the
favors done me, they were as nothing compared to some; and, again, I was
honestly and sympathetically interested in the horrible deprivations
inflicted upon others, their weaknesses of mind and body, afflictions of
all sizes and sorts, the way so often they helplessly blundered or were
driven by internal chemic fires, as in the case of the fascinating and
beautiful-minded John T. McEnnis, to their own undoing. That great
idealistic soul, that warm, ebullient heart!

The opportunity for indulging in these moods was due to the fact that I
had plenty of time on my hands, that just at this time I was more
interested in seeing than in reading, and that the three principal
hotels here, Southern-fashion, were most hospitable, equipping their
lobbies and even their flanking sidewalks with comfortable
rocking-chairs where one might sit and dream or read or view the passing
scene with idle or analytic eye. My favorite hotel was the Lindell,
rather large and not impressive but still successful and popular, which
stood at the northwest corner of Sixth and Washington Avenue. Here I
would repair whenever I had a little time and rock in peace and watch
the crowd of strangers amble to and fro. The manager of this hotel, a
brisk, rather interesting and yet job-centered American, seeing me sit
about every afternoon between four-thirty and six and knowing that I was
from the _Globe_, finally began to greet me and ask occasionally if I
did not want to go up to dinner. (How lonely and forlorn I must have
looked!) On Thanksgiving and Christmas afternoons of this my first
season there, seeing me idle and alone, he asked me to be his guest. I
accepted, not knowing what else to do. To make it seem like a real
invitation he came in after I was seated at the table and sat down with
me for a few minutes. He was so charming and the hotel so brisk and
crowded that I soon felt at home.

The daily routine of my work seemed to provide ample proof of my
suspicions that life was grim and sad. Regularly it would be a murder, a
suicide, a failure, a defalcation which I would be assigned to cover,
and on the same day there would be an important wedding, a business or
political banquet, a ball or a club entertainment of some kind, which
would provide just the necessary contrast to prove that life is
haphazard and casual and cruel; to some lavish, to others niggardly.

Mere money, often unworthily inherited or made by shabby methods, seemed
to throw commonplace and even wretched souls into such glittering and
condescending prominence, in this world at least. Many of the business
men with whom I came in contact were vulgarians, their wives and
daughters vain and coarse and inconsiderate. I was constantly impressed
by the airs of the locally prominent, their craving for show and
pleasure, their insane greed for personal mention, their hearty
indifference to anything except money plus a keen wish to seem to
despise it. I remember going one afternoon to an imposing residence
where some function was in progress. I was met by an ostentatious butler
who exclaimed most nobly: “My dear sir, who sent you here? The _Globe_
knows we never give lists to newspaper men. We never admit reporters,”
and then stiffly closed the door on me. I reported as much to the city
editor, who remarked meekly, “Well, that’s all right,” and gave me
something else to do. But the next day a list of the guests at this
function was published, and in this paper. I made inquiry of Hartung,
who said: “Oh, the society editor must have turned that in. These
society women send in their lists beforehand and then say they don’t
receive reporters.”

Another time it was the residence of the Catholic archbishop of St.
Louis, a very old but shrewd man whom, so it was rumored in newspaper
circles, the local priests were plotting to make appear infirm and
weakminded in order that a favorite of theirs might be made coadjutor. I
was sent to inquire about his health, to see him if possible. At the
door I was met by a sleek dark priest who inquired what I wished,
whereupon he assured me that the archbishop was too feeble to be seen.

“That is exactly why I am here,” I insisted. “The _Globe_ wishes to
inform the public of his exact condition. There seems to be a belief on
the part of some that he is not as ill as is given out.”

“What! You accuse us of concealing something in connection with the
archbishop! This is outrageous!” and he firmly shut me out.

It seemed to me that the straightforward thing would have been to let me
meet the archbishop. He was a public official, the state of whose health
was of interest to thousands. But no; official control regulated that.
Shortly afterward he was declared too feeble to perform his duties and a
coadjutor was appointed.

Again I was sent to a fashionable west end hotel to interview a visiting
governor who was attending a reception of some kind and who, as we
understood, was leaving the next day.

“My dear young fellow,” said a functionary connected with the
entertainment committee, “you cannot do anything of the sort. This is no
time to be coming around for anything of this kind.”

“But he is leaving tomorrow....”

“I cannot help that. You cannot see him now.”

“How about taking him my card and asking him about tomorrow?”

“No, no, no! I cannot do anything of the sort. You cannot see him,” and
once again I was shunted briskly forth.

I recall being sent one evening to attend a great public ball of some
kind—The Veiled Prophets—which was held in the general selling-room of
the stock exchange at Third and Walnut, and which followed as a rule
some huge autumnal parade. The city editor sent me for a general view or
introduction or pen picture to be used as a lead to the full story,
which was to be done by others piecemeal. For this occasion I was
ordered to hire a dress-suit (the first I had ever worn), which cost the
paper three dollars. I remember being greatly disturbed by my appearance
once I got in it and feeling very queer and conspicuous. I was greatly
troubled as to what sort of impression my garb would make on the various
members of the staff. As to the latter I was not long in doubt.

“Say, look at our friend in the claw-hammer, will you?” this from
Hazard. “He looks like a real society man to me!”

“Usher, you mean,” called Bellairs. “Who is he? I don’t seem to remember
him.”

“Those pants come darned near being a fit, don’t they?” this from some
one who had laid hold of the side lines of the trousers.

I could not make up my mind whether I wanted to fight or laugh or
whether I was startlingly handsome or a howling freak.

But the thing that weighed on me most was the luxury, tawdry enough
perhaps to those intimately connected with it, which this ball
presented, contrasted with my own ignoble state. After spending three
hours there bustling about examining flowers, decorations, getting
names, details of costumes, and drinking various drinks with officiating
floormasters whose sole duty appeared to be to look after the press and
see that they got all details straight, I returned to the office and
began to pour forth a glowing account of how beautiful it all was, how
gorgeous, how perfect the women, how marvelous their costumes, how
gracious and graceful the men, how oriental or occidental or Arabic, I
forget which, were the decorations, outdoing the Arabian Nights or the
fabled splendors of the Caliphate. Who does not recognize this
indiscriminate newspaper tosh, poured forth from one end of America to
another for everything from a farmers’ reunion or an I. O. O. F. Ladies’
Day to an Astor or a Vanderbilt wedding?

As I was writing, my head whirring with the imaginary and impossible
splendors of the occasion, I was informed by my city editor that when I
was done I should go to a number in South St. Louis where only an hour
before a triple or quadruple murder had been committed. I was to go out
on a street-car and if I could not get back in time by street-car I was
to get a carriage and drive back at breakneck speed in order to get the
story into the last edition. The great fear was that the rival paper,
the _Republic_, would get it or might already have it and we would not.
And so, my head full of pearls, diamonds, silks, satins, laces, a world
of flowers and lights, I was now hustled out along the dark, shabby,
lonely streets of South St. Louis to the humblest of cottages, in the
humblest of streets where, among unpainted shacks with lean-tos at the
back for kitchens, was one which contained this story.

An Irish policeman, silent and indifferent, was already at the small
dark gate in the dark and silent street, guarding it against intruders;
another was inside the door, which stood partially open, and beyond in
the roadway in the darkness, their faces all but indistinguishable, a
few horrified people. A word of explanation and I was admitted. A faint
glow from a small smoky glass lamp illuminated the front room darkly. It
turned out that a very honest, simple, religious and good-natured
Irish-American of about fifty, who had been working by the day in this
neighborhood, had recently been taken ill with brain fever and had on
this night arisen from his feverish sickbed, seized a flatiron, crept
into the front room where his wife and two little children slept and
brained all three. He had then returned to the rear room, where a grown
daughter slept on a couch beside him, and had first felled her with the
iron and then cut her throat with a butcher knife. Murderous as the deed
seemed, and apparently premeditated, it was the result of fever. The
policeman at the gate informed me that the father had already been taken
to the Four Courts and that a hospital ambulance was due any moment.

“But he’s out av his mind,” he insisted blandly. “He’s crazy, sure, or
sick av the fever. No man in his right sinses would do that. I tried to
taalk to him but he couldn’t say naathin’, just mumble like.”

After my grand ball this wretched front room presented a sad and ghastly
contrast. The house and furniture were very poor, the dead wife and
children homely and seemingly work-worn. I noticed the dim, smoky flame
cast by the lamp, the cheap bed awry and stained red, the mother and two
children lying in limp and painful disorder, the bedding dragged half
off. It was evident that a struggle had taken place, for a chair and
table were upset, the ironing-board thrown down, a bureau and the bed
pushed sidewise.

Shocked beyond measure, yet with an eye to color and to the zest of the
public for picturesque details, I examined the three rooms with care,
the officer in the house following me. Together we looked at the
utensils in the kitchen, what was in the cupboard to eat, what in the
closet to wear. I made notes of the contents of the rooms, their
cheapness, then went to the neighbors on either hand to learn if they
had heard anything. Then in a stray owl-car, no carriages being
available, I hurried to the Four Courts, several miles cityward, to see
the criminal. I found him, old, pale, sick, thin, walking up and down in
his small iron cell, plainly out of his mind, a picture of hopeless,
unconscious misery. His hands trembled idly about his mouth; his shabby
trousers bagged about his shoes; he was unshaven and weak-looking, and
all the while he mumbled to himself some unintelligible sounds. I tried
to talk with him but could get nothing. He seemed not even to know that
I was there, so brain-sick was he. Then I questioned the jail
attendants, those dull wiseacres of the law. Had he talked? Did they
think he was sane? With the usual acumen and delicacy of this tribe,
they were inclined to think he was shamming.

I hurried through dark streets to the office. It was an almost empty
reportorial room in which I scribbled my dolorous picture. With the
impetuosity of youth and curiosity and sorrow and wonder I told it all,
the terror, the pity, the inexplicability. As I wrote, each page was
taken up by Hartung, edited and sent up. Then, having done perhaps a
column and a half (Bellairs having arrived with various police
theories), I was allowed finally to amble out into a dark street and
seek my miserable little room with its creaky bed, its dirty coverlets,
its ragged carpets and stained walls. Nevertheless, I lay down with a
kind of high pride and satisfaction in my story of the murder and my
description of the ball, and with my life in consequence! I was not so
bad. I was getting along. I must be thought an exceptional man to be
picked for two such difficult tasks in the same evening. Life itself was
not so bad; it was just higgledy-piggledy, catch-as-catch-can, that was
all. If one were clever, like myself, it was all right. Next morning,
when I reached the office, McCord and Hazard and some others pronounced
my stuff “pretty good,” and I was beside myself with glee. I strolled
about as though I owned the earth, pretending simplicity and humility
but actually believing that I was the finest ever, that no one could
outdo me at this game of reporting.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXV


THINGS relatively interesting, contrasts nearly as sharp and as well
calculated to cause one to meditate on the wonder, the beauty, the
uncertainty, the indifference, the cruelty and the rank favoritism of
life, were daily if not hourly put before me. Now it would be some such
murder as this or a social scandal of some kind, often of a gross and
revolting character, in some ultra-respectable neighborhood, or a
suicide of peculiarly sad or grim character. Or, again, it would be a
fine piece of chicane, as when a certain “board-and-feed” stable owner
of the west end, about to lose his property because of poor business and
anxious to save himself by securing the insurance, set fire to the
stable and destroyed seventeen healthy horses as well as one stable
attendant and “got away with it,” legally anyhow. His plan had probably
been to save the horses and the man, but the plan miscarried. I gathered
as much from him when I interviewed him. I put some pertinent questions
at him but could get no admissions on which to base a charge. He was a
shrewd, calculating, commercial type, vigorous and semi-savage. He
evaded me blandly and I had to write the fire up as a sad accident,
thereby aiding him to get his insurance, the while I was convinced that
he was guilty, a hard-hearted scoundrel.

Another thing that I sensed very clearly at this time was the fact that
the average newspaper reporter was a far better detective in his way
than the legitimate official detective, and not nearly so well paid. The
average so-called “headquarters man,” was a loathsome thing, as low in
his ideas and methods as the lowest criminal he was set to trap. The
criminal was at least shrewd and dynamic enough to plot and execute a
crime, whereas the detective had no brains at all, merely a low kind of
cunning. Often red-headed, freckled, with big hands and feet, store
clothes, squeaky shoes—why does such a picture of the detective come
back to me? Pop-eyed, with a ridiculous air of mystery and profundity in
matters requiring neither, dirty, offensive, fish-eyed and merciless,
the detectives floundered about in different cases without a grain of
humor; whereas the average reporter was, by contrast anyhow, intelligent
or shrewd, cleanly nearly always, if at times a little slouchy, inclined
to drink and sport perhaps but genial, often gentlemanly, a fascinating
story-teller, a keen psychologist (nearly always one of the best),
frequently well read, humorous, sympathetic, amusing or gloomy as the
case might be, but generally to be relied upon in such emergencies for
truly skillful work. Naturally there was some enmity between the two, a
contempt on the part of the newspaper man for the detective, a fear and
dislike and secret opposition on the part of the detective. The reporter
would go forth on a mystifying case and as a rule, given time enough,
would solve it, whereas the police detectives would be tramping about
often trailing the reporters, reading the newspapers to discover what
had been discovered, and then, when the work had been done and the true
clew furnished, would step forward at the grand moment to do the
arresting and get their pictures and names in the papers. The detectives
were constantly playing into the hands of the police reporters in
unimportant matters during periods between great cases, doing them
little favors, helping them in small cases, in order that when a big
case came along they might have favors done unto them. The most
important of all these favors, of course, was that of seeing that their
names were mentioned in the papers as being engaged in solving a mystery
or having done thus and so, when in all likelihood some newspaper man
had done it.

Sometimes the tip as to where the criminal was likely to be found would
be furnished by the papers and later credited to the police. Sometimes
the newspaper men would lash the police, sometimes flatter them, but
always they were seeking to make the police aid them to get various
necessary things done, and not always succeeding. Sometimes the police
were hand-in-glove with certain crooks or evil-doers, and you could all
but prove it, but until you did so, and sometimes afterward, they were
stubborn and would defy you and the papers. But not for long. They loved
publicity too much; offer them sufficient publicity, and they would act.
It was nearly always my experience that the newspapers, which meant the
reporters of course plus an efficient city editor and possibly a
managing editor, would be the first to worm out the psychology of any
given case and then point an almost unerring finger at the criminal;
then the police or detectives would come in and do the arresting and get
the credit.

Another thing that impressed me greatly at this time was the
kaleidoscopic character of newspaper work, which, in its personal
significance to me, cannot be too much emphasized. As I have said, one
day it would be a crime of a lurid or sensational character that would
arrest and compel me to think, and the same day, within the hour
perhaps, it would be a lecturer or religionist with some finespun theory
of life, some theosophist like Annie Besant, who in passing through St.
Louis on a lecture tour would be at one of the best hotels, usually the
Southern, talking transmigration and Nirvana. Again, it would be some
mountebank or quack of a low order—a spiritualist, let us say, of the
Eva Fay stripe, or a mindreader like Bishop, or a third-rate religionist
like the Reverend Sam Jones, who was then in his heyday preaching
unadulterated hell, or the arrival of a prize-fighter-actor like John L.
Sullivan, then only recently defeated by Corbett, or a novelist of the
quack order, such as Hall Caine.

And there were distinguished individuals, including such excellent
lecturers as Henry Watterson and Henry M. Stanley, or a musician like
Paderewski, or a scientist of the standing of Nikola Tesla. I was sent
to interview my share of these, to get their views on something—anything
or nothing really, for my city editor, Mr. Mitchell, seemed at times a
little cloudy as to their significance, and certainly I had no clear
insight into What most of them stood for. I wondered, guessed, made
vague stabs at what I thought they represented, and in the main took
them seriously enough. My favorite question was What did they think of
life, its meaning, since this was uppermost in my mind at the time, and
I think I asked it of every one of them, from John L. Sullivan to Annie
Besant. And what a jangle of doctrines! What a noble burst of ideas!
Annie Besant, in a room at the Southern delicately scented with flowers,
arrayed in a cool silken gray dress, informed me that the age was
material, that wealth and show were an illusion based on nothing at all
(I wrote that down without understanding what she meant), that the Hindu
Swamis had long since solved all this seeming mystery of living, Madame
Blavatsky being the most recent and the greatest apostle of wisdom in
this matter, and that the great thing to do in this world or the next
was to improve oneself spiritually and so eventually attain to Nirvana,
nothingness—a word I had to look up afterward. (When I told Dick Wood
about her he seemed greatly impressed and said: “Oh, there’s more to
that stuff than you think, Dreiser. You’re just not up on all that yet.
These mystics see more than we think they do,” and he looked very wise.)

And Henry Watterson—imagine me at the age of twenty-one trying to
interview him when he was in the heyday of his fame and mental powers!
Short, stocky, with a protuberant belly, slightly gray hair, gruff and
simple in his manner and joyously secure in his fame (he had just the
preceding summer said that Cleveland, Democratic candidate of the hour
and later elected, was certain to “walk up an alley to a slaughter-house
and an open grave,” and had of course seen his prediction fail), he was
convinced that the country was in bad hands, not likely to go to the
“demnition bow-wows” as yet but in for a bad corporation-materialistic
spell. And when I asked _him_ what he thought of life——

“My son, when you get as old as I am you probably won’t think so much of
it, and you won’t be to blame. It’s good enough in its way, but it’s a
damned ticklish business. You may say that Henry Watterson said that if
you like. Do the best you can, and don’t crowd the other fellow too
hard, and you’ll come out as well as anybody, I suppose.”

And then John L. Sullivan, raw, red-faced, big-fisted, broad-shouldered,
drunken, with gaudy waistcoat and tie, and rings and pins set with
enormous diamonds and rubies—what an impression he made! Surrounded by
local sports and politicians of the most rubicund and degraded character
(he was a great favorite with them), he seemed to me, sitting in his
suite at the Lindell, to be the apotheosis of the humorously gross and
vigorous and material. Cigar boxes, champagne buckets, decanters, beer
bottles, overcoats, collars and shirts littered the floor, and lolling
back in the midst of it all in ease and splendor his very great self, a
sort of prizefighting J. P. Morgan.

“Aw, haw! haw! haw!” I can hear him even now when I asked him my
favorite question about life, his plans, the value of exercise (!), etc.
“He wants to know about exercise! You’re all right, young fella, kinda
slim, but you’ll do. Sit down and have some champagne. Have a cigar.
Give ‘im some cigars, George. These young newspaper men are all all
right to me. I’m for ’em. Exercise? What I think? Haw! haw! Write any
damned thing yuh please, young fella, and say that John L. Sullivan said
so. That’s good enough for me. If they don’t believe it bring it back
here and I’ll sign it for yuh. But I know it’ll be all right, and I
won’t stop to read it neither. That suit yuh? Well, all right. Now have
some more champagne and don’t say I didn’t treat yuh right, ’cause I
did. I’m ex-champion of the world, defeated by that little dude from
California, but I’m still John L. Sullivan—ain’t that right? Haw! haw!
They can’t take that away from me, can they? Haw! haw! Have some more
champagne, boy.”

I adored him. I would have written anything he asked me to write. I got
up the very best article I could and published it, and was told
afterward that it was fine.

Another thing that interested me about newspaper work was its pagan or
unmoral character, as contrasted with the heavy religionistic and
moralistic point of view seemingly prevailing in the editorial office
proper (the editorial page, of course), as well as the world outside.
While the editorial office might be preparing the most flowery
moralistic or religionistic editorials regarding the worth of man, the
value of progress, character, religion, morality, the sanctity of the
home, charity and the like, the business office and news rooms were
concerned with no such fine theories. The business office was all
business, with little or no thought of anything save success, and in the
city news room the mask was off and life was handled in a
rough-and-ready manner, without gloves and in a catch-as-catch-can
fashion. Pretense did not go here. Innate honesty on the part of any one
was not probable. Charity was a business with something in it for
somebody. Morality was in the main for public consumption only. “Get the
news! Get the news!”—that was the great cry in the city editorial room.
“Don’t worry much over how you get it, but get it, and don’t come back
without it! Don’t fall down! Don’t let the other newspapers skin us—that
is, if you value your job! And write—and write well. If any other paper
writes it better than you do you’re beaten and might as well resign.”
The public must be entertained by the writing of reporters.

But the methods and the effrontery and the callousness necessary at
times for the gathering of news—what a shock even though one realized
that it was conditional with life itself! At most times one needed to be
hard, cold, jesuitical. For instance, one of the problems that troubled
me most, and to which there was no solution save to act jesuitically or
get out, was how to get the facts from a man or woman suspected of some
misdeed or error without letting him know that you were so doing. In the
main, if you wanted facts of any kind, especially in connection with the
suspected, you did not dare tell them that you came as an enemy or were
bent on exposing them. One had to approach all, even the worst and most
degraded, as a friend and pretend an interest, perhaps even a sympathy
one did not feel, to apply the oil of flattery to the soul. To do less
than this was to lose the news, and while a city editor might readily
forgive any form of trickery he would never forgive failure. Cheat and
win and you were all right; be honest and lose and you were fired. To
appear wise when you were ignorant, dull when you were not,
disinterested when you were interested, brutal or severe when you might
be just the reverse—these were the essential tricks of the trade.

And I, being sent out every day and loafing about the corridors of the
various hotels at different times, soon encountered other newspaper men
who were as shrewd and wily as ferrets, who had apparently but one
motive in life: to trim their fellow newspaper men in the matter of
news, or the public which provided the news. There being only two
morning papers here (the _Globe_ and the _Republic_), the reporters of
each loved the others not, even when personally they were inclined to be
friendly. They did not dare permit their personal likes to affect their
work. It was every man for himself. Meet a reporter of the _Republic_ or
the _Globe_ on a story: he might be friendly enough but he would tell
you nothing. He wished either to shun you or worm your facts out of you.
Meet him in the lobby of the La Clede, where by common consent, winter
or summer, most seemed to gather, or at the corner drugstore outside,
and each would be friendly with the other, trading tales of life, going
together to a saloon for a drink or to the “beanery,” a famous
eating-place on Chestnut between Fourth and Broadway, perhaps borrowing
a dime, a quarter or a dollar until pay day—but never repaying with news
or tips; quite the reverse, as I soon found. One had to keep an
absolutely close mouth as to all one might be doing.

The counsel of all of these men was to get the news in any way possible,
by hook or by crook, and to lose no time in theorizing about it. If a
document was lying on an official’s table, for instance, and you wanted
to see it and could not persuade him to give it to you—well, if he
turned his back it was good business to take it, or at least read it. If
a photograph was desired and the one concerned would not give it and you
saw it somewhere, take it of course and let them complain afterward if
they would; your city editor was supposed to protect you in such
matters. You might know of certain conditions of which a public official
was not aware and the knowledge of which would cause him to talk in one
way, whereas lack of that knowledge would cause him to talk in another.
Personally you might think it your duty to tell him, but as a newspaper
man you could not. It was your duty to your paper to sacrifice him. If
you didn’t some one else would. I was not long in learning all this and
more, and although I understood the necessity I sometimes resented
having to do it. There were times when I wanted to treat people better
than I did or could. Sometimes I told myself that I was better in this
respect than other newspaper men; but when the test came I found that I
was like the others, as eager to get the news. Something akin to a dog’s
lust of the chase would in critical moments seize upon me and in my
eagerness to win a newspaper battle I would forget or ignore nearly
every tenet of fairness and get it. Then, victorious, I might sigh over
the sadness of it all and decide that I was going to get out of the
business—as I eventually did, and for very much this reason—but at the
time I was weak or practical enough.

One afternoon I was sent to interview the current Democratic candidate
for mayor, an amiable soul who conducted a wholesale harness business
and who was supposed to have an excellent chance of being elected. The
city had long been sick of Republican misrule, or so our office seemed
to think. When I entered his place he was in the front part of the store
discussing with several friends or politicians the character of St.
Louis, its political and social backwardness, its narrowness, slowness
and the like, and for some reason, possibly due to the personality of
his friends, he was very severe. Local religionists, among others, came
in for a good drubbing. I did not know him but for some unexplainable
reason I assumed at once that the man talking was the candidate. Again,
I instinctively knew that if what he was saying were published it would
create a sensation. The lust of the hunter stalking a wild animal
immediately took possession of me. What a beat, to take down what this
man was saying! What a stir it would make! Without seeming to want
anything in particular, I stood by a showcase and examined the articles
within. Soon he finished his tirade and came to me.

“Well, sir?”

“I’m from the _Globe_,” I said. “I want to ask you——” and I asked him
some questions.

When he heard that I was from the _Globe_ he became visibly excited.

“Did you hear what I was saying just now?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, you know that I was not speaking for publication....”

“Yes, I know.”

“And you’re not to forget that.”

“I understand.”

Just the same I returned to the office and wrote up the incident just as
it had occurred. My city editor took it, glanced over it, and departed
for the front office. I could tell by his manner that he was excited.
The next day it was published in all its crude reality, and the man was
ruined politically. There were furious denials in the rival Democratic
papers. A lying reporter was denounced, not only by Mr. Bannerman, the
candidate, but by all the other papers editorially. At once I was called
to the front office to explain to Mr. McCullagh, which I did in detail.
“He said it all, did he?” he asked, and I insisted that he had. “I know
it’s true,” he said, “for other people have told me that he has said the
same things before.”

Next day there was a defiant editorial in the _Globe_ defending me, my
truthfulness, the fact that the truth of the interview was substantiated
by previous words and deeds of the candidate. Various editors on the
paper came forward to congratulate me, to tell me what a beat I had
made; but to tell the truth I felt shamefaced, dishonest, unkind. I was
an eavesdropper. I had taken an unfair advantage, and I knew it. Still,
something in me made me feel that I was fortunate. As a reporter I had
done the paper a great service. My editor-in-chief, as I could see,
appreciated it. No other immediate personal reward came to me, but I
felt that I had strengthened my standing here a little. Yet for that I
had killed that man politically. Youth, zest, life, the love of the
chase—that is all that explains it to me now.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXVI


MY standing as a local newspaper man seemed to grow by leaps and
bounds—I am not exaggerating. Certain almost fortuitous events (how
often they have occurred in my life!) seemed to assist me, far above my
willing or even my dreams. Thus, one morning I had come down to the
_Globe_ city room to get something, a paper or a book I had left, before
going to my late breakfast, when a tall, broad-shouldered man, wearing a
slouch hat and looking much like the typical Kentucky colonel, hurried
into the office and exclaimed:

“Is the city editor here?”

“He isn’t down yet,” I replied. “Anything I can do for you?”

“I just stopped to tell you there’s a big wreck on the road up here near
Alton. I saw it from the train as I passed coming down from Chicago. A
half dozen cars are burning. If you people get a man up there right away
you can get a big lead on this.”

I grabbed a piece of paper, for I felt instinctively that this was
important. Some one ought to attend to it right away. I looked around to
see if there was any one to appeal to, but there was no one.

“What did you say the name of the place was?” I inquired.

“Wann,” relied the stranger, “right near Alton. You can’t miss it.
Better get somebody up there quick. I think it’s something big. I know
how important these things are to you newspaper boys: I used to be one
myself, and I owe the _Globe_ a few good turns anyhow.” He smiled and
bustled out.

I did not wait to see the city editor. I felt that I was taking a big
risk, going out without orders, but I also felt that something terrible
had happened and that the occasion warranted it. I had never seen a big
wreck. It must be wonderful. The newspapers always gave them so much
space. I wrote a note to the city editor explaining that the wreck was
reported to be a great one and added that I felt it to be my duty to go
at once. Perhaps he had better send an artist after me—imagine me
advising him!

On the way to the depot I thought of what I must do: telegraph for an
artist if the wreck was really important, and then get my story and get
back. It was over an hour’s run. I got off at the nearest station to the
wreck and, walked the remaining distance, which was a little more than a
mile. As I neared it I saw a crowd of people gathered about what was
evidently the smoldering embers of a train, and on the same track, not
more than a hundred feet away, were three oil-tank cars, those evidently
into which the passenger train had crashed. These cars were also
surrounded by a crowd, citizens of nearby towns, as it proved, who were
staring at them as the fire blazed about them. As I learned later, a
fourth oil-tank car had been smashed and the contents had poured out
about these others of the oil group as well as the passenger train
itself. The oil had taken fire and consumed the train, although no
people were killed.

The significance of the scene had not yet quite dawned upon me, however,
when for the second time in my life I was privileged to behold one of
those terrible catastrophes which it is given to few of us to see. The
oil-tank cars about which the crowd was gathered, having become
overheated by the burning oil beneath, exploded all at once with a
muffled report which to me (I was no more than fifteen hundred feet
away) sounded like a deep breath exhaled by some powerful man. The earth
trembled, the heavens instantly appeared to be surcharged with flame.
The crowd, which only a moment before I had seen solidly massed about
the cars, was now hurled back in confusion, and I beheld men running,
some toward me, some from me, their bodies on fire or being momentarily
ignited. I saw flames descending toward me, long, red, licking things,
and realizing the danger I turned and in a panic ran as fast as I could,
never stopping until I deemed myself at a safe distance. Then I halted
and gazed back, hearing at the same time a chorus of pitiful wails and
screams which tore my heart.

Death is here, I said to myself. I am witnessing a real tragedy, a
horror. The part of the great mysterious force which makes and unmakes
our visible scene is here and now magnificently operative. But, first of
all, I was a newspaper man; I must report this, run to it, not away.

I saw dashing toward me a man whose face I could not make out clearly,
for at times it was partially covered by his hands, which seemed aflame,
at other times the hands waved in the air like flails, and were burning.
His body was being consumed by a rosy flame which partially enveloped
him. His face, whenever it became visible as he moved his hands to and
fro, was screwed into a horrible grimace. Unconscious of me as he ran,
he dashed like a fiery force to the low ditch which paralleled the
railroad, where he rolled and twisted like a worm.

I could scarcely believe my eyes or my senses. My hair rose on end. My
hands twitched convulsively. I ran forward, pulling off my coat, and
threw it over him to smother the spots of flame—but it was of no use—my
coat began to burn. With my bare hands I tore grass and earth from the
ditch and piled them upon the sufferer. For the moment I was beside
myself with terror and misery and grief. Tears came to my eyes and I
choked with the sense of helpless misery. When I saw my own coat burning
I snatched it away and stamped the fire out.

The man was burned beyond recovery. The oil had evidently fallen in a
mass upon the back of his head and shoulders and back and legs. It had
burnt his clothes and hair and cooked the skin. His hands were scorched
black, as well as his neck and ears and face. Finally he ceased to
struggle and lay still, groaning heavily but unconscious. He was alive,
but that was all.

Oppressed by the horror of it I looked about for help, but seeing many
others in the same plight I realized the futility of further labor here.
I could do nothing more. I had stopped the flames in part, the man’s
rolling in the ditch had done the rest, but to what end! Hope of life
was ridiculous, I could see that plainly. I turned, like a soldier in
battle, and looked after the rest of the people.

To this hour I can see it all—some running over the fields in the
distance away from the now entirely exploded tanks, others approaching
the fallen victims. A house a little beyond the wreck was burning. A
small village, not a thousand feet away, was blazing in spots, bits of
oil having fallen upon the roofs. People were running hither and thither
like ants, bending over and examining prostrate forms.

My first idea of course when I recovered my senses was that I must get
in touch with my newspaper and get it to send an artist—Wood, if
possible—and then get the news. These people here would do as much for
the injured as I could. Why waste my newspaper’s time on them? I ran to
a little road-crossing telegraph station a few hundred feet farther on
where I asked the agent what was being done.

“I’ve sent for a wreck-train,” he replied excitedly. “I’ve telegraphed
the Alton General Hospital. There ought to be a train and doctor here
pretty soon, any minute now.” He looked at his watch. “What more can I
do?”

“Have you any idea how many are killed?”

“I don’t know. You can see for yourself, can’t you?”

“Will you take a message to the _Globe-Democrat_? I want to send for an
artist.”

“I can’t be bothered with anything like that now,” he replied roughly. I
felt that an instant antagonism and caution enveloped him. He hurried
away.

“How am I to do this?” I thought, and then I ran, studying and aiding
with the victims where aid seemed of the slightest use, wondering how I
should ever be able to report all this, and awaiting the arrival of the
hospital and wrecking train.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XXVII


IT was not long before the wreck-train arrived, a thing of flat cars,
box-cars and cabooses of an old pattern, with hospital cots made ready
en route, and a number of doctors and nurses who scrambled out with the
air and authority of those used to scenes of this kind. Meanwhile I had
been wondering how long it would be before the wreck-train would arrive
and had set about getting my information before the doctors and
authorities were on the scene, when it might not be so easy. I knew that
names of the injured and their condition were most important, and I ran
from one to another of the groups that had formed here and there over
one dying or dead, asking them who it was, where he lived, what his
occupation was (curiously, there were no women), and how he came to be
at the scene of the wreck. Some, I found, were passengers, some
residents of the nearby village of Wann or Alton who had hurried over to
see the wreck. Most of the passengers had gone on a train provided for
them.

I had a hard enough time getting information, even from those who were
able to talk. Citizens from the nearby town and those who had not been
injured were too much frightened by the catastrophe or were lending a
hand to do what they could ... they were not interested in a reporter or
his needs. A group carrying the injured to the platform resented my
intrusion, and others searching the meadows for those who had run far
away until they fell were too busy to bother with me. Still I pressed
on. I went from one to another asking who they were, receiving in some
cases mumbled replies, in others merely groans. With those laid out on
the platform awaiting the arrival of the wreck-train I did not have so
much trouble: they were helpless and there were none to attend them.

“Oh, can’t you let me alone!” exclaimed one man whose face was a black
crust. “Can’t you see I’m dying?”

“Isn’t there some one who will want to know?” I asked softly. It struck
me all at once that this was a duty these people owed to everybody,
their families and friends included.

“You’re right,” said the man with cracked lips, after a long silence,
and he gave his name and an account of his experiences.

I went to others and to each who was able to understand I put the same
question. It won me the toleration of those who were watching me. All
except the station agent seemed to see that I was entitled to do this,
and he could have been soothed with a bribe if I had thought of it.

As I have said, however, once the wreck-train rolled in surgeons and
nurses leaped down, and men brought litters to carry away the wounded.
In a moment the scene changed; the authorities of the road turned a
frowning face upon inquiry and I was only too glad that I had thought to
make my inquiries early. However, I managed in the excitement to install
myself in the train just as it was leaving so as to reach Alton with the
injured and dead and witness the transfer. Some died en route, others
moaned in a soul-racking way. I was beside myself with pity and
excitement, and yet I could think only of the manner in which I would
describe, describe, describe, once the time came. Just now I scarcely
dared to make notes.

At Alton the scene transferred itself gradually to the Alton General
Hospital, where in spite of the protests of railroad officials I
demanded as my right that I be allowed to enter and was finally
admitted. Once in the hospital I completed my canvass, being new
assisted by doctors and nurses, who seemed to like my appearance and to
respect my calling, possibly because they saw themselves mentioned in
the morning paper. Having interviewed every injured man, obtaining his
name and address where possible, I finally went out, and at the door
encountered a great throng of people, men, women and children, who were
weeping and clamoring for information. One glance, and I realized for
all time what these tragedies of the world really mean to those
dependent. The white drawn faces, the liquid appealing eyes, tragedy
written in large human characters.

“Do you know whether my John is in there?” cried one woman.

“Your John?” I replied sympathetically. “Will you tell me who your John
is?”

“John Taylor. He works on that road. He was over there.”

“Wait a moment,” I said, reaching down in my pocket for my pad and
reading the names. “No, he isn’t here.”

The woman heaved a great sigh.

Others now crowded about me. In a moment I was the center of a clamoring
throng. All wanted to know, each before the other.

“Wait a moment,” I said, as an inspiration seized me. I raised my hand,
and a silence fell over the little group.

“You people want to know who is injured,” I called. “I have a list here
which I made over at the wreck and here. It is almost complete. If you
will be quiet I will read it.”

A hush fell over the crowd. I stepped to one side, where there was a
broad balustrade, mounted it and held up my paper.

“Edward Reeves,” I began, “224 South Elm Street, Alton. Arms, legs and
face seriously burned. He may die.”

“Oh!” came a cry from a woman in the crowd.

I decided to not say whether any one was seriously injured.

“Charles Wingate, 415 North Tenth Street, St. Louis.”

No voice answered this.

“Richard Shortwood, 193 Thomas Street, Alton.”

No answer.

I read on down the list of forty or more, and at each name there was a
stir and in some instances cries. As I stepped down two or three people
drew near and thanked me. A flush of gratification swept over me. For
once I felt that I had done something of which I could honestly be
proud.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in gathering outside details. I
hunted up the local paper, which was getting out an extra, and got
permission to read its earlier account. I went to the depot to see how
the trains ran, and by accident ran into Wood. In spite of my inability
to send a telegram the city editor had seen fit to take my advice and
send him. He was intensely wrought up over how to illustrate it all, and
I am satisfied that my description of what had occurred did not ease him
much. I accompanied him back to the hospital to see if there was
anything there he wished to illustrate, and then described to him the
horror as I saw it. Together we visited the morgue of the hospital,
where already fourteen naked bodies had been laid out in a row, bodies
from which the flames had eaten great patches of skin, and I saw that
there was nothing now by which they could be identified. Who were they?
I asked myself. What had they been, done? The nothingness of man! They
looked so commonplace, so unimportant, so like dead flies or beetles.
Curiously enough, the burns which had killed them seemed in some cases
pitifully small, little patches cut out of the skin as if by a pair of
shears, revealing the raw muscles beneath. All those dead were stark
naked, men who had been alive and curiously gaping only two or three
hours before. For once Dick was hushed; he did not theorize or pretend;
he was silent, pale. “It’s hell, I tell you,” was all he said.

On the way back on the train I wrote. In my eagerness to give a full
account I impressed the services of Dick, who wrote for me such phases
of the thing as he had seen. At the office I reported briefly to
Mitchell, giving that solemn salamander a short account of what had
occurred. He told me to write it at full length, as much as I pleased.
It was about seven in the evening when we reached the office, and at
eleven I was still writing and not nearly through. I asked Hartung to
look out for some food for me about midnight, and then went on with my
work. By that time the whole paper had become aware of the importance of
the thing I was doing; I was surrounded and observed at times by gossips
and representatives of out-of-town newspapers, who had come here to get
transcripts of the tale. The telegraph editor came in from time to time
to get additional pages of what I was writing in order to answer
inquiries, and told me he thought it was fine. The night editor called
to ask questions, and the reporters present sat about and eyed me
curiously. I was a lion for once. The realization of my importance set
me up. I wrote with vim, vanity, a fine frenzy.

By one o’clock I was through. Then after it was all over the other
reporters and newspaper men gathered about me—Hazard, Bellairs, Benson,
Hartung, David the railroad man, and several others.

“This is going to be a great beat for you,” said Hazard generously.
“We’ve got the _Post_ licked, all right. They didn’t hear of it until
three o’clock this afternoon, but they sent five men out there and two
artists. But the best they can have is a _cold_ account. You _saw_ it.”

“That’s right,” echoed Bellairs. “You’ve got ’em licked. That’ll tickle
Mac, all right. He loves to beat the other Sunday papers.” It was
Saturday night.

“Tobe’s tickled sick,” confided Hartung cautiously. “You’ve saved his
bacon. He hates a big story because he’s always afraid he won’t cover it
right and it always worries him, but he knows you’ve got ’em beat.
McCullagh’ll give him credit for it, all right.”

“Oh, that big stiff!” I said scornfully, referring to Tobias.

“Something always saves that big stiff,” said Hazard bitterly. “He plays
in luck, by George! He hasn’t any brains.”

I went in to report to my superior after a time, and told him very
humbly that I thought I had written all I could down here but that there
was considerable more up there which I was sure should be personally
covered by me and that I ought to go back.

“Very well,” he replied gruffly. “But don’t overdo it.”

“The big stiff!” I thought as I went out.

That night I stayed at a downtown hotel, since I was now charging
everything to the paper and wanted to be called early, and after a
feverish sleep arose at six and started out again. I was as excited and
cheerful as though I had suddenly become a millionaire. I stopped at the
nearest corner and bought a _Globe_, a _Republic_, and a
_Post-Dispatch_, and proceeded to contrast the various accounts,
scanning the columns to see how much my stuff made and theirs, and
measuring the atmosphere and quality. To me, of course, mine seemed
infinitely the best. There it was, occupying the whole front page, with
cuts, and nearly all of the second page, with cuts! I could hardly
believe my eyes. Dick’s illustrations were atrocious, a mess, no spirit
or meaning to them, just great blotches of weird machinery and queer
figures. He had lost himself in an effort to make a picture of the
original crumpling wreck, and he had done it very badly. At once, and
for the first time, he began to diminish as an artist in my estimation.
“Why, this doesn’t look anything like it at all! He hasn’t drawn what I
would have drawn,” and I began to see or suspect that art might mean
something besides clothes and manner. “Why didn’t he show those dead
men, that crowd clamoring about the main entrance of the hospital?” The
illustrations in the other papers seemed much better.

As for myself, I saw no least flaw in my work. It was all all right,
especially the amount of space given me. Splendid! “My!” I said to
myself vainly, “to think I should have written all this, and
single-handed, between the hours of five and midnight!” It seemed
astonishing, a fine performance. I picked out the most striking passages
first and read them, my throat swelling and contracting uncomfortably,
my heart beating proudly, and then I went over the whole of the article
word by word. To me in my vain mood it read amazingly well. I felt that
it was full of fire and pathos and done in the right way, with facts and
color. And, to cap it all and fill my cup of satisfaction to the brim,
this same paper contained an editorial calling attention to the facts
that the _Globe_ had triumphed in the matter of reporting this story and
that the skill of the _Globe-Democrat_ could always be counted upon in a
crisis like this to handle such things correctly, and commiserating the
other poor journals on their helplessness when faced by such trying
circumstances. The _Globe_ was always best and first, according to this
statement. I felt that at last I had justified the opinion of the
editor-in-chief in sending for me.

Bursting with vanity, I returned to Alton. Despite the woes of others I
could not help glorying in the fact that nearly the whole city, a good
part of it anyhow, must be reading _my_ account of the wreck. It was
anonymous, of course, and they could not know who had done it, but just
the same I had done it whether they knew it or not and I exulted. This
was the chance, apparently, that I had been longing for, and I had not
failed.

This second day at Alton was not so important as I had fancied it might
be, but it had its phases. On my arrival I took one more look at the
morgue, where by then thirty-one dead bodies were laid out in a row, and
then began to look after those who were likely to recover. I visited
some of the families of the afflicted, who talked of damage suits. At my
leisure I wrote a full account of just how the case stood, and wired it.
I felt that to finish the thing properly I should stay until another
day, which really was not necessary, and decided to do so without
consulting my editor.

But by nightfall, after my copy had been filed, I realized my mistake,
for I received a telegram to return. The local correspondent could
attend to the remaining details. On the way back I began to feel a qualm
of conscience in regard to my conduct. I had been taking a great deal
for granted, as I knew, in thus attempting to act without orders. My
city editor might think I was getting a “swelled head,” as no doubt I
was, and so complain to McCullagh. I knew he did not like me, and this
gave him a good excuse to complain. Besides, my second day’s story, now
that it was gone, did not seem to be so important; I might as well have
carried it in and saved the expense of telegraphing it. I felt that I
had failed in this; also that mature consideration might decide that I
had failed on the first story also. I began to think that by my own
attitude I had worked up all the excitement in the office that Saturday
night and that my editor-in-chief would realize it now and so be
disappointed in me. Suppose, I thought, when I reached the office
McCullagh were dissatisfied and should fire me—then what? Where would I
go, where get another job as good as this? I thought of my various
follies and my past work here. Perhaps with this last error my sins were
now to find me out. “Pride goeth before destruction,” I quoted, “and a
haughty spirit before a fall.”

By eight o’clock, when I reached the office, I was thoroughly depressed
and hurried in, expecting the worst. Of course the train had been
late—had to be on this occasion!—and I did not reach the office in time
to take an evening assignment. Mitchell was out, which left me nothing
to do but worry. Only Hartung was there, and he seemed rather glum.
According to him, Tobe had seemed dissatisfied with my wishing to stay
up there. Why had I been so bold, I asked myself, so silly, so
self-hypnotized? I took up an evening paper and retired gloomily to a
corner to wait. When Mitchell arrived at nine he looked at me but said
nothing. As I was about to go out to get something to eat Hartung came
in and said: “Mr. Mitchell wants to speak to you.”

My heart sank. I went in and stood before him.

“You called for me?”

“Yes. Mr. McCullagh wants to see you.”

“It’s all over,” I thought. “I can tell by his manner. What a fool I was
to build such high hopes on that story!”

I went out to the hall and walked nervously to the office of the chief,
which was at the front end of the hall. I was so depressed I could have
cried. To think that all my fine dreams were to have such an end!

That Napoleon-like creature was sitting in his little office, his chin
on his chest, a sea of papers about him. He did not turn when I entered,
and my heart grew heavier. He was angry with me! I could see it! He kept
his back to me, which was to show me that I was not wanted, done for! At
last he wheeled.

“You called for me, Mr. McCullagh?” I murmured.

“Mmm, yuss, yuss!” he mumbled in his thick, gummy, pursy way. His voice
always sounded as though it were being obstructed by something leathery
or woolly. “I wanted to say,” he added, covering me with a single
glance, “that I liked that story you wrote, very much indeed. A fine
piece of work, a fine piece of work! I like to recognize a good piece of
work when I see it. I have raised your salary five dollars, and I would
like to give you this.” He reached in his pocket, drew out a roll and
handed over a yellow twenty-dollar bill.

I could have dropped where I stood. The reaction was tremendous after my
great depression. I felt as though I should burst with joy, but instead
I stood there, awed by this generosity.

“I’m very much obliged to you, Mr. McCullagh,” I finally managed to say.
“I thank you very much. I’ll do the best I can.”

“It was a good piece of work,” he repeated mumblingly, “a good piece of
work,” and then slowly wheeled back to his desk.

I turned and walked briskly out.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XXVIII


THE fact that I had gained the notice of a man as important as
McCullagh, a man about whom a contemporaneous poet had written a poem,
was almost more than I could stand. I walked on air. Yet the next
morning, returning to work, I found myself listed for only “Hotels” and
“Heard in the Corridors,” my usual tasks, and was depressed. Why not
great tasks always? Why not noble hours always? Yet once I had recovered
from this I walked about the downtown streets convulsively digging my
fingers into my palms and shaking myself with delight as I thought of
Saturday, Sunday and Monday. That was something worth talking about. Now
I was a real newspaper man. I had beaten the whole town, and in a new
city, a city strange to me!

Having practically nothing to do and my excitement cooling some, I
returned to the art department this same day to report on what had
happened. By now I was so set up that I could scarcely conceal my
delight and told both volubly, not only about my raise in salary but
also that I had been given a twenty-dollar bill by McCullagh himself—an
amazing thing, of course. This last was received with mingled feelings
by the department: McCord was pleased, of course, but Dick naturally was
inclined to be glum. He was conscious of the fact that his drawings were
not good, and McCord had been twitting him about them. Dick admitted it
frankly, saying that he had not been able to collect himself. “You know
I can’t do those things very well and I shouldn’t have been sent out on
it. That’s Mitchell for you!” Perhaps it angered him to think that he
should have been so unfortunate at the very time that I should have been
so signally rewarded; anyhow he did not show anything save a generous
side to me at the time although latterly I felt that it was the
beginning of a renewal of that slight hostility based on his original
opposition to me. He complimented me, saying: “You’ve done it this time.
I’m glad you’ve made a hit, old man.”

That night, however, I was not invited to his room, as I had hoped I
should be, although he and Peter went off somewhere—to his room, as I
assumed. I applied myself instead to “Heard in the Corridors.” Then the
days settled down into their old routine for me—petty assignments, minor
contrasts between one thing and another. Only one thing held me up, and
that was that Hazard now urged me to do a novel with him, a thing which
flattered me so much that I felt my career as a great writer was at
hand. For had he not done a novel already? I considered it seriously for
a few days, arguing the details of the plot with him at the office and
after hours, but it came to nothing. Plays rather than novels, as I
fancied for some reason, were more in my line, and poems—things which I
thought easier to do. Since writing that first poem a month or so before
I was busy now from time to time scribbling down the most mediocre
jingles relative to my depressions and dreams, and imaging them to be
great verse. Truly, I thought I was to be a great poet, one of the very
greatest, and so nothing else really mattered for the time being.
Weren’t poets always lone and lorn, as I was?

It was about this time too that, having received the gift of twenty and
the raise of five, I began to array myself in manner so ultra-smart, as
I thought, but fantastic, really, that I grieve to think that I should
ever have been such a fool. Yet to tell the truth, I do not know whether
I do or not. A foolish boyhood is as delightful as any. I had now moved
into Tenth Street, and fortunately or unfortunately for me (fortunately,
I now think) a change in the personnel of the _Globe’s_ editorial staff
occurred which had a direct bearing upon my ambitions. A man by the name
of Carmichael who did the dramatics on the paper had been called to a
better position in Chicago, and the position he had occupied here was
therefore temporarily vacant. Hazard was the logical man for the place
and should have had it because he had held this position before. He was
older and a much better critic. But I, as may be imagined, was in a very
appropriate mood for this, having recently been thinking of writing a
play, and besides, I was crazy for advancement of any kind. Accordingly
the moment I heard of it I was on the alert, eager to make a plea for
myself and yet not dreaming that I should ever get it. My sole
qualification, as I see it now, was that I was an ardent admirer of the
stage and one who, because of his dramatic instincts (as I conceived
mine to be), ought to make a good enough critic. I did not know that I
was neither old nor cold nor experienced enough to do justice to the art
of any one. Yet I should add in all fairness that for the work here
required—to write a little two-stick announcement of each new play,
mostly favorable, and to prepare a weekly announcement of all the new
performances—I was perhaps not so poorly equipped. At any rate, my
recent triumph had given me such an excellent opinion of myself, had
made me think that I stood so well in the eyes of Mr. McCullagh, that I
decided to try for it. It might not mean any more salary, but think of
the honor of it! Dramatic Editor of the _Globe-Democrat_ of St. Louis!
Ha!... I decided to try.

There were two drawbacks to this position, as I learned later: one was
that although I might be dramatic editor I should still be under the
domination of Mr. Tobias Mitchell, who ruled this department; the other
was that I should have to do general reporting along with this other
work, a thing which irritated me very much and took much of the savor of
the task away. The department was not deemed important enough to give
any one man complete control of it. It seemed a poor sort of thing to
try for, once I learned of this, but still there would be the fact that
I could still say I was a dramatic editor. It would give me free
entrance to the theaters also.

Consequently I began to wonder how I should go about getting it.
Mitchell was so obviously opposed to me that I knew it would be useless
to appeal to him. McCullagh might give it to me, but how appeal to him?
I thought of asking him direct, but that would be going over Mitchell’s
head, and he would never forgive me for that, I was sure. I debated for
a day or two, and then decided, since my principal relations had been
with Mr. McCullagh, that I would go to him direct. Why not? He had been
very kind to me, had sent for me. Let Mitchell be angry if he would. If
I made good he could not hurt me.

I began to lay my plans or rather to screw up my courage to the point
where I could force myself to go and see Mr. McCullagh. He was such a
chill and distant figure. At the same time I felt that this man who was
the object of so much reverence was one of the loneliest persons
imaginable. He was not married. Day after day he came to this office
alone, sat alone, ate alone, went home alone, for he had no friends
apparently to whom he would condescend to unbend. This touched me. He
was too big, too lonely.

This realization drew me sympathetically toward him and made me imagine,
if you please, that he ought to like me. Was I not his protégé? Had he
not brought me here? Instinctively I felt that I was one who could
appreciate him, one whom he might secretly like. The only trouble was
that he was old and famous, whereas I was a mere boy, but he would
understand that too.

The day after I had made up my mind I began to loiter about the long
corridor which led to his office, in the hope of encountering him
accidentally. I had often noticed him shouldering his way along the
marble wainscoting of this hall, his little Napoleonic frame cloaked in
a conventional overcoat, his broad, strong, intellectual face crowned by
a wide-brimmed derby hat which he wore low over his eyes. Invariably he
was smoking a short fat cigar, and always looked very solemn, even
forbidding. However, having made up my mind, I lay in wait for him one
morning, determined to see him, and walking restlessly to the empty
telegraph room which lay at the other end of the hall from his office
and then back, but keeping as close as I could to one door or another in
order to be able to disappear quietly in case my courage failed me. Yet
so determined was I to see him that I had come down early, before any of
the others, in order that he should not slip in ahead of me and so rob
me of this seemingly accidental encounter.

At about eleven he arrived. I was on one of my return trips from the
telegraph room when I heard the elevator click and dodged into the city
room only to reappear in time to meet him, ostensibly on my way to the
toilet. He gave me but one sage glance, then stared straight ahead.

At sight of him I lost my courage. Arriving exactly opposite him,
however, I halted, controlled by a reckless, eager impulse.

“Mr. McCullagh,” I said without further ado, “I want to know if you
won’t make me dramatic editor. I hear that Mr. Carmichael has resigned
and the position is open. I thought maybe you might give it to me.” I
flushed and hesitated.

“I will,” he replied simply and gruffly. “You’re dramatic editor. Tell
Mr. Mitchell to let you be it.”

I started to thank him but the stocky little figure moved indifferently
away. I had only time to say, “I’m very much obliged” before he was
gone.

I returned to the city editorial room tingling to the fingertips. To
think that I should have been made dramatic editor, and so quickly, in
such an offhand, easy way! This great man’s consideration for me was
certainly portentous, I thought. Plainly he liked me, else why should he
do this? If only I could now bring myself seriously to this great labor
what might I not aspire to? Dramatic Editor of the _Globe-Democrat_ of
the great city of St. Louis, and at the age of twenty-one—well, now,
that was something, by George! And this great man liked me. He really
did. He knew me at sight, honored my request, and would no doubt, if I
behaved myself, make a great newspaper man of me. It was something to be
the favorite of a great editor-in-chief by jing—a very great thing
indeed.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXIX


UPON my explaining to Mitchell what had happened he looked at me coldly,
as much as to say “What the devil is this now that this ass is telling
me?” Then, thinking, I suppose, that I must have some secret hold on Mr.
McCullagh or at least stand high in his favor, he gave me a very wry
smile and said he would have made out for me a letter of introduction to
the local managers. An hour later this was laid on my desk by Hartung,
who congratulated me, and there I was: dramatic editor. “Gee!” exclaimed
Hartung when he came in with the letter. “I bet you could have knocked
Tobe over with a straw! He doesn’t understand yet, I guess, how well you
stand with the old man. The chief must like you, eh?” I could see that
my new honor made a considerable difference in his already excellent
estimate of me.

Armed with this letter I now visited the managers of the theaters, all
of whom received me cordially. I can still see myself very gay and
enthusiastic, sure that I was entering upon a great work of some kind.
And the dreams I had in connection with the theater, my future as a
great popular playwright perhaps! It was all such a wonder-world to me,
the stage, such a fairyland, that I bubbled with joy as I went about
thinking that now certainly I should come in touch with actors,
beautiful women! Think of it—dramatic critic!—a person of weight and
authority!

There were seven or eight theaters in St. Louis, three or four of them
staging only that better sort of play known as a first-class attraction;
the others giving melodrama, vaudeville and burlesque. The manager of
the Grand, a short, thick-set, sandy-complexioned man of most jovial
mien, was McManus, father of the well-known cartoonist of a later period
and the prototype of his most humorous character, Mr. Jiggs. He
exclaimed upon seeing me:

“So you’re the new dramatic editor, are you? Well, they change around
over there pretty swift, don’t they? What’s happened to Carmichael?
First it was Hartridge, then Albertson, then Hazard, then Mathewson,
then Carmichael, and now you, all in my time. Well, Mr. Dreiser, I’m
glad to see you. You’re always welcome here. I’ll take you out and
introduce you to our doormen and Mr. —— in the box-office. He’ll always
recognize you. We’ll give you the best seat in the house if it’s empty
when you come.”

He smiled humorously and I had to laugh at the way he rattled off this
welcome. An aura of badinage and humor encircled him, quite the same as
that which makes Mr. Jiggs delightful. This was the first I had ever
heard of Hazard having held this position, and now I felt a little
guilty, as though I had edged him out of something that rightfully
belonged to him. Still, I didn’t really care, sentimentalize as I might.
I had won.

“Did Bob Hazard once have this position?” I asked familiarly.

“Yes. That was when he was on the paper the last time. He’s been off and
on the _Globe_ three or four times, you know.” He smiled clownishly. I
laughed.

“You and I’ll get along, I guess,” he smiled.

At the other theaters I was received less informally but with uniform
courtesy; all assured me that I should be welcome at any time and that
if I ever wished tickets for myself or a friend or anybody on the paper
I could get them if they had them. “And we’ll make it a point to have
them,” said one. I felt that this was quite an acquisition of influence.
It gave me considerable opportunity to be nice to any friends I might
acquire, and then think of the privilege of seeing any show I chose, to
walk right into a theater without being stopped, and to be pleasantly
greeted en route!

                  *       *       *       *       *

The character of the stage of that day, in St. Louis and the rest of
America at least, as contrasted with what I know of its history in the
world in general, remains a curious and interesting thing to me. As I
look back on it now it seems inane, but then it was wonderful. It is
entirely possible that nations, like plants or individuals, have to grow
and obtain their full development regardless of the accumulated store of
wisdom and achievement in other lands, else how otherwise explain the
vast level of mediocrity which obtains in some countries and many forms
of effort, and that after so much that has been important elsewhere?

The stage in other lands had already seen a few tremendous periods; even
here in America the mimetic art was no mystery. A few great things had
been done, in acting at least, by Booth, Barrett, Macready, Forrest,
Jefferson, Modjeska, Fanny Davenport, Mary Anderson, to name but a few.
I was too young at the time to know or judge of their art or the quality
of the plays they interpreted, aside from those of Shakespeare perhaps,
but certainly their fame for a high form of production was considerable.

And yet, during the few months that I was dramatic editor, and the
following year when I was a member of another staff and had entrée to
these same theaters, I saw only one or two actors worthy the name, only
one or two performances which I can now deem worth while. Richard
Mansfield and Felix Morris stand out in my mind as excellent, and Sol
Smith Russell and Joseph Jefferson as amusing comedians, but who else?
Comic and light opera, with a heavy inter-mixture of straight melodrama,
and comedy-dramas, were about the only things that managers ventured to
essay. Occasionally a serious actor of the caliber of Sir Henry Irving
or E. S. Willard would appear on the scene, but many of their plays were
of a more or less melodramatic character, highly sentimental, emotional
and unreal. In my stay here of about a year and a half I saw Joseph
Jefferson, Sol Smith Russell, Salvini junior, Wilson Barrett, Fanny
Davenport, Richard Mansfield, E. S. Willard, Felix Morris, E. H.
Sothern, Julia Marlowe and a score of others more or less important but
too numerous to mention; comedians, light-opera singers and the like;
and although at the time I was entertained and moved by some of them, I
now realize that in the main they were certainly pale spindling lights.
And at that, America was but then entering upon its worst period of
stage sentiment or mush. The movies as such had not yet appeared, but
“Mr. Frohman presents” was upon us, master of middle-class sweetness and
sentimentality. I remember staring at the three-sheet lithos and
thinking how beautiful and perfect they were and what a great thing it
was to be of the stage. To be an author, an actor, a composer, a
manager! To have “Mr. Frohman present——”!

The Empire and Lyceum theater companies, with their groups of perfect
lady and gentleman actors, were then at their height, the zenith of
stage art—Mr. John Drew, for instance, with his wooden face and manners,
Mr. Faversham, Miss Opp, Miss Spong, Miss This, Miss That. Such
excellent actors as Henry E. Dixey, Richard Mansfield or Felix Morris
could scarcely gain a hearing. I recall sitting one night in Hogan’s
Theater, at Ninth or Tenth and Pine streets, and hearing Richard
Mansfield order down the curtain at one of the most critical points in
his famous play “Baron Chevreuil,” or some such name, and then come
before it and denounce the audience in anything but measured terms for
what he considered its ignorance and lack of taste. It had applauded, it
seems, at the wrong time in that asinine way which only an American
audience can when it is there solely because it thinks it ought to be.
By that time Mansfield had already achieved a pseudo if not a real
artistic following and was slowly but surely becoming a cult. On this
occasion he explained to that bland gathering that they were fools, that
American audiences were usually composed of such animals or creatures
and were in the main dull to the point of ennui, that they were not
there to see a great actor act but to see a man called Richard
Mansfield, who was said to be a great actor. He pointed out how
uniformly American audiences applauded at the wrong time, how truly
immune they were to all artistic values, how wooden and
reputation-following. At this some of them arose and left; others seemed
to consider it a great joke and remained; still others were angry but
wanted to see the “show.” Having finished his speech he ordered up the
curtain and proceeded with his act as though nothing had happened, as
though the audience were really not there. I confess I rather liked him
for his stand even though I did not quite know whether he was right or
wrong. But I wrote it up as though he had grossly insulted his audience,
a body of worthy and respectable St. Louisans. Someone—Hazard, I
think—suggested that it would be good policy to do so, and I, being
green to my task, did so.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The saccharine strength of the sentiment and mush which we could gulp
down at that time, and still can and do to this day, is to me beyond
belief. And I was one of those who did the gulping; indeed I was one of
the worst. Those perfect nights, for instance, when as dramatic critic I
strolled into one theater or another, two or three in an evening
possibly, and observed (critically, as I thought) the work of those who
were leaders in dramatic or humorous composition and that of our leading
actors! It may be that the creative spirit has no particular use for
intelligence above a mediocre level, or, better yet and far more likely,
creative intelligence works through supermen whose visions, by which the
mob is eventually entertained and made wise, must content them.
Otherwise how explain the vast level of mediocrity, especially in
connection with the stage, the people’s playhouse, then, today and
forever, I suppose, until time shall be no more?

I recall, for instance, that I thought Mr. Drew was really a superior
actor, and also that I thought that most of the plays of Henry Arthur
Jones, Arthur Wing Pinero, Augustus Thomas, and others (many others),
were enduring works of art. I confess it: I thought so, or at least I
heard so and let it go at that. How sound I thought their
interpretations of life to be! The cruel over-lords of trade in those
plays, for instance, how cruel they were and how true! The virtues of
the lowly workingman and the betrayed daughter with her sad, downcast
expression! The moral splendor of the young minister who denounced
heartless wealth and immorality and cruelty in high places and reformed
them then and there or made them confess their errors! I can see him
yet: slim, simple, perfect, a truly good man. The offhand on-the-spot
manner in which splendid reforms were effected in an hour or a night,
the wrongs righted instanter—in plays! You can still see them in any
movie house in America. To this hour there is no such thing as a
reckless unmarried girl in any movie exhibited in America. They are all
married.

But how those St. Louis audiences applauded! _Right_, here in America at
least, was always appropriately rewarded and left triumphant, wrong was
quite always properly drummed out. Our better selves invariably got the
better of our lower selves, and we went home cured, reformed, saved. And
there was little of evil of any description which went before, in acts
one and two, which could not be straightened out in the last act.

The spirit of these plays captivated my fancy at that time and elevated
me into a world of unreality which unfortunately fell in with the
wildest of my youthful imaginings. Love, as I saw it here set forth in
all those gorgeous or sentimental trappings, was the only kind of love
worth while. Fortune also, gilded as only the melodramatic stage can
gild it and as shown nightly by Mr. Frohman everywhere in America, was
the only type of fortune worth while. To be rich, elegant, exclusive, as
in the world of Frohman and Mr. Jones and Mr. Pinero! According to what
I saw here, love and youth were the only things worth discussing or
thinking about. The splendor of the Orient, the social flare of New
York, London and Paris, the excited sex-imaginings of such minds as
Dumas junior, Oscar Wilde, then in his heyday, Jones, Pinero and a
number of other current celebrities, seemed all to be built around youth
and undying love. The dreary humdrum of actual life was carefully shut
out from these pieces; the simple delights of ordinary living, if they
were used at all, were exaggerated beyond sensible belief. And
elsewhere—not here in St. Louis, but in the East, New York, London,
Paris, Vienna, St. Petersburg—were all the things that were worth while.
If I really wanted to be happy I must eventually go to those places, of
course. There were the really fine clothes and the superior
personalities (physically and socially), and vice and poverty (painted
in such peculiar colors that they were always divinely sad or repellent)
existed only in those great cities.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXX


I BEGAN to dream more than ever of establishing some such perfect
atmosphere for myself somehow, somewhere—but never in St. Louis, of
course. That was too common, too Western, too far removed from the real
wonders of the world. Love and mansions and travel and saccharine
romance were the great things, but they were afar off, in New York. (It
was around this time that I was establishing the atmosphere of a
“studio” in Tenth street.) Nothing could be so wonderful as love in a
mansion, a palace in some oriental realm such as was indicated in the
comic operas in which DeWolf Hopper, Thomas Q. Seabrooke, Francis
Wilson, Eddie Foy and Frank Daniels were then appearing. How often, with
McCord or Wood as companion, occasionally Hazard or a new friend
introduced to me by Wood and known as Rodenberger, or Rody (a most
amazing person, as I will later relate), I responded to these poetic
stage scenes! With one or other of these I visited as many theaters as I
could, if for no more than an hour or an act at a time, and consumed
with wonder and delight such scenes as most appealed to me: the
denunciation scene, for instance, in _The Middleman_, or the third act
of nearly any of Henry Arthur Jones’s plays. Also quite all of the light
operas of Reginald de Koven and Harry B. Smith, as well as those
compendiums of nondescript color and melody, the extravaganzas _The
Crystal Slipper_, _Ali Baba_, _Sindbad the Sailor_. Young actresses such
as Della Fox, Mabel Amber, Edna May, forerunners of a long line of comic
opera soubrettes, who somehow reminded me of Alice, held me spellbound
with delight and admiration. Here at last was the kind of maiden I was
really craving, an actress of this hoyden, airy temperament.

I remember that one night, at the close of one of Mr. Willard’s
performances at the Olympic—_The Professor’s Love_ _Story_, in which he
was appearing with a popular leading woman, a very beautiful one—I was
asked by the manager to wait for a few moments after the performance so
that he might introduce me. Why, I don’t know. It seemed that he was
taking them to supper and thought they might like to meet one of the
local dramatic critics or that I might like to accompany them; an honor
which I declined, out of fright or bashfulness. When they finally
appeared in the foyer of the theater, however, the young actress very
stagy and soft and clinging and dressed most carefully after the manner
of the stage, I was beside myself with envy and despair. For she
appeared hanging most tenderly on her star’s arm (she was his mistress,
I understood) and gazing soulfully about. Such beauty! Such grace! Such
vivacity! Could anything be so lovely? Think of having such a perfect
creature love you, hang on your arm! And here was I, poor dub, a mere
reporter, a nobody, upon whom such a splendid creature would not bend a
second glance. Mr. Willard was full of the heavy hauteur of the actor,
which made the scene all the more impressive to me. I think most of us
like to be up-staged at one time or another by some one. I glanced at
her bashfully sidewise, pretending to be but little interested, while I
was really dying of envy. Finally, after a few words and a few
sweety-sweet smiles cast in my direction, I was urged to come with them
but instead hurried away, pleading necessity and cursing my stars and my
fate. Think of being a mere reporter at twenty-five or thirty a week,
while others, earning thousands, were thus basking in the sunshine of
success and love! Ah, why might not I have been born rich or famous and
so able to command so lovely a woman?

If I had been of an ordinary, sensible, everyday turn of mind, with a
modicum of that practical wisdom which puts moderate place and position
first and sets great store by the saving of money, I might have
succeeded fairly well here, much better than I did anywhere else for a
long period after. Unquestionably Mr. McCullagh liked me; I think he may
have been fond of me in some amused saturnine way, interested to keep
such a bounding, high-flown dunce about the place. I might have held
this place for a year or two and made it a stepping-stone to something
better. But instead of rejoicing in the work and making it the end and
aim of my daily labors, I looked upon it as a mere bauble, something I
had today but might not have tomorrow. And anyhow, there were better
things than working day by day and living in a small room. Life ought
certainly to bring me something better, something truly splendid—and
soon. I deserved it—everything, a great home, fine clothes, pretty
women, the respect and companionship of famous men. Indeed all my pain
and misery was plainly caused by just such a lack or lacks as this. Had
I these things all would be well; without them—well, I was very
miserable. I was ready to accept socialism if by that I could get what I
wanted, while not ready to admit that all people were as deserving as I
by any means. The sad state of the poor workingman was a constant
thought with me, but nearly always I was the greatest and poorest and
most deserving of all workingmen.

This view naturally tended to modify the sanity of my work. Granting a
modicum of imagination and force, still any youth limited as I was at
that time has a long road to go. Even in that most imaginative of all
professions, the literary, the possessor of such notions as I then held
is certainly debarred from accomplishing anything important until he
passes beyond them. Yet the particular thought or attitude I have
described appears to reign in youth. Too often it is a condition of many
minds of the better sort and is retained in its worst form until by
rough experience it is knocked out of them or they are destroyed utterly
in the process. But it cannot be got over with quickly. Mine was a sad
case. One of the things which this point of view did for me was to give
my writing, at that time, a mushy and melancholy turn which would not go
in any newspaper of today, I hope. It caused me to paint the ideal as
not only entirely probable but necessary before life would be what it
should!—the progress bug, as you see. I could so twist and discolor the
most commonplace scenes as to make one think that I was writing of
paradise. Indeed I allowed my imagination to run away with me at times
and only the good sense of the copy-reader or the indifference of a
practical-minded public saved the paper from appearing utterly
ridiculous.

On one occasion, for instance, I went to report a play of mediocre
quality that was running at the Olympic, and was so impressed with a
love scene which was a part of it that I was entirely blinded to all the
faults of construction which the remainder of the play showed, and wrote
it up in the most glowing colors. And the copy-reader, Hartung, was too
weary that night or too inattentive to capture it. The next day some of
the other newspaper men in the office noticed it and commented on it to
me or to Hartung, saying it was ridiculously high-flown and that the
play itself was silly, which was true. But did that cure me? Not a bit.
I was reduced for a day or two by it, but not for long. Seeing other
plays of the same caliber and with much sweet love mush in them, I raved
as before.

A little later a negro singer, a young woman of considerable vocal
ability who was being starred as the Black Patti, was billed to appear
in St. Louis. The manager of the bureau that was presenting her called
my attention by letter to her “marvelous” ability, and by means of
clippings and notices of her work published elsewhere had endeavored to
impress me favorably. I read these notices, couched in the glowing
phrases of the press-agent, and then went forth on this evening to cover
this myself. To make it all the grander, I invited McCord and with him
proceeded to the theater, where we were assigned a box.

As it turned out, or as I chanced to see or feel it, the young woman was
a sweet and impressive singer, engaging and magnetic. McCord agreed with
me that she could sing. We listened to the program of a dozen pieces,
including such old favorites as _Suwanee River_ and _Comin’ Thro’ the
Rye_, and then I, being greatly moved, returned to the office and wrote
an account that was fairly sizzling with the beauty which I thought was
there. I did not attempt critically to analyze her art—I could not,
knowing nothing of even the rudiments of music—but plunged at once into
that wider realm which involved the subtleties of nature itself. “What
is so beautiful as the sound which the human voice is capable of
producing,” I wrote in part, “especially when that voice is itself a
compound of the subtlest things in nature? Here we have a young girl,
black it is true, fresh from the woods and fields of her native country,
yet, blessed by some strange chance with that mystic thing, a voice, and
fittingly interpreting via song all that we hold to be most lovely. The
purling of the waters, the radiance of the moonlight, the odor of sweet
flowers, sunlight, storm, the voices and echoes of nature, all are found
here, thrilling over lips which represent in their youthfulness but a
few of the years which wisdom and skill would seem to require. Yes, one
may sit and, in hearing Miss Jones sing, vicariously entertain all these
things, because of them she is a compound, youthful, vivacious,
suggestive of the elemental sweetness of nature itself.”

To understand the significance of such a statement in St. Louis one
would have to look into the social and political conditions of the
people who dwelt there. To a certain extent they were Southern in
temperament, representing the vigorous anti-negro spirit which prevailed
for so many years after the war. Again, they were fairly illuminated
where music was concerned. Assuming that a bit of idealism such as this
was sound, it might get by; but when it is remembered that this was
largely mush and written about a negro, a race more or less alien to
their sympathy, would it not naturally fall upon hard ears and appear
somewhat ridiculous? A negro the compound of the subtlest elements in
nature! And this in their favorite paper!

By chance it went through, Hartung having come to look upon most of my
stuff as the outpourings of some strange genius who could do about as he
pleased. Neither Mitchell nor the editor-in-chief saw it perhaps, or if
they did they gave it no attention, music, the theater and the arts
being of small import here. But, depend upon it, the editors of the
various rival papers that were constantly being sniffed at by the
_Globe_ saw it and knowing the sensitiveness of our editor-in-chief to
criticism of his own paper at once set to work to make something out of
it. And of all the editors in the middle West, McCullagh, by reason of
his force and taste and care in editing his paper, was a shining target
for a thing like this. He was, as a rule, impeccable and extremely
conspicuous. Whatever he did or said, good, bad or indifferent, was
invariably the subject of local newspaper comment, and when any little
discrepancy or error appeared in the _Globe-Democrat_ it was always
charged to him personally. And so it was with this furore over the Black
Patti. It was too good a thing to be lost sight of.

“The erudite editor of the _Globe-Democrat_,” observed the
_Post-Dispatch_ editorially, “appears to have visited one of our
principal concert halls last night. It is not often that that ponderous
intellect can be called down from the heights of international politics
to contemplate so simple a thing as a singer of songs, a black one at
that; but when true art beckons even he can be counted upon to answer.
Apparently the Black Patti beckoned to him last evening, and he was not
deaf to her call, as the following magnificent bit of word-painting
fresh from his pen is here to show.” (Then followed the praise in full.)
“None but the grandiloquent editor of the _Globe-Democrat_ could have
looked into the subtleties of nature, as represented by the person of
Miss Sisseretta Jones, and there discovered the wonders of music and
poetry such as he openly confesses to have done. Indeed we have here at
last a measure of that great man’s insight and feeling, a love of art,
music, poetry and the like such as has not previously been indicated by
him. And we hereby hasten to make representation of our admiration and
great debt that others too may not be deprived of this great privilege.”
After this came more of the same gay raillery, with here and there a
reference to “the great patron of the black arts” and the pure joy that
must have been his at thus vicariously being able to enjoy within the
precincts of Exposition Hall “the purling of the waters” bubbling from a
black throat. It was a gentle satire, not wholly uncalled for since the
item had appeared in the _Globe_, and directed at the one man who could
least stand that sort of thing, sensitive as he was to his personal
dignity.

I was blissfully unaware that any comment had been made on my effusion
until about five in the afternoon, by which time the afternoon editions
of the _Post-Dispatch_ had been out several hours. When I entered the
office at five, comfortable and at peace with myself in my new position,
excited comment was running about the office as to what “the old man”
would think and say and do now. He had gone at two, it appeared, to the
Southern for luncheon and had not returned. Wait until he saw it! Oh me!
Oh my! Wouldn’t he be hopping! Hartung, who was reasonably nervous as to
his own share in the matter, was the first to approach and impress me
with the dreadfulness of it all, how savage “the old man” could be in
any such instance. “Gee, just wait! Oh, but he’ll be hot, I bet!” As he
talked the “old man” passed up the hall, a grim and surly figure. I saw
my dramatic honors going a-glimmering.

“Here,” I said to Hartung, pretending a kind of innocence, even at this
late hour, “what’s all this about? What’s the row, anyhow?”

“Didn’t you see the editorial in the _Post-Dispatch_?” inquired Hartung
gloomily. It was his own predicament that was troubling him.

“No. What about?”

“Why, that criticism you wrote about the Black Patti. They’ve made all
sorts of fun of it. The worst of it is that they’ve charged it all up to
the old man.”

I smiled a sickly smile. I felt as if I had committed some great crime.
Why had I attempted to write anything “fine” anyhow? Why couldn’t I have
been content and rested with a little praise? Had I no sense at all?
Must I always be trying to do something great? Perhaps this would be the
end of me.

Hartung brought me the _Post-Dispatch_, and sorrowfully and with falling
vitals I read it, my toes curling, my stomach seeming gradually to
retire to my backbone. Why had I done it!

As I was standing there, my eyes glued to the paper, near the door which
looked into the main city room in which was Tobe scribbling dourly away,
I heard and then saw McCullagh enter and walk up to the stout city
editor. He had a copy of the selfsame _Post-Dispatch_ crumpled roughly
in his hand, and on his face was gathered what seemed to me a dark
scowl.

“Did you see this, Mr. Mitchell?” I heard him say.

Tobe looked up, then closely and respectfully at the paper.

“Yes,” he said.

“I don’t think a thing like that ought to appear in our paper. It’s a
little bit too high-flown for our audience. Your reader should have
modified it.”

“I think so myself,” replied Tobe quietly.

The editor walked out. Tobe waited for his footsteps to die away and
then growled at Hartung: “Why the devil did you let that stuff go
through? Haven’t I warned you against that sort of thing? Why can’t you
watch out?”

I could have fallen through the floor. I had a vision of Hartung burying
his head in his desk, scared and mute.

After the evening assignments had been given out and Tobe had gone to
dinner, Hartung crept up to me.

“Gee, the old man was as mad as the devil!” he began. “Tobe gave me
hell. He won’t say anything to you maybe, but he’ll take it out on me.
He’s a little afraid of your pull with the old man, but he gives me the
devil. Can’t you look out for those things?”


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXXI


IN spite of this little mishap, which did me no great harm, there was a
marked improvement in my affairs in every way. I had a better room,
various friends—Wood, McCord, Rodenberger, Hazard, Bellairs, a new
reporter by the name of Johnson, another by the name of Walden Root, a
nephew of the senator—and the growing consideration if not admiration of
many of the newspaper men of the city. Among them I was beginning to be
looked upon as a man of some importance, and the proof of it was that
from time to time I found myself being discussed in no mild way. From
now on I noticed that my noble Wood, whom I had so much looked up to at
first, began to take me about with him to one or more Chinese
restaurants of the most beggarly description in the environs of the
downtown section, which same he had discovered and with the proprietors
of which he was on the best of terms. They were really hang-outs for
crooks and thieves and disreputable tenderloin characters generally
(such was the beginning of the Chinese restaurant in America), but not
so to Wood. He had the happy faculty of persuading himself that there
was something vastly mysterious and superior about the entire Chinese
race, and after introducing me to many of his new laundry friends he
proceeded to assure me of the existence of some huge Chinese
organization known as the Six Companies which, so far as I could make
out from hearing him talk, was slowly but surely (and secretly, of
course) getting control of the entire habitable globe. It had complete
control of great financial and constructive ventures here, there and
everywhere, and supplied on order thousands of Chinese laborers to any
one who desired them, anywhere. And this organization ruled them with a
rod of iron, cutting their throats and burying them head down in a
bucket of rice when they failed to perform their bounden duties and
transferring their remains quietly to China, in coffins made in China
and brought here for that purpose. The Chinese who had worked for the
builders of the Union Pacific had been supplied by this company, so he
said.

Again, there were the Chinese Free Masons, a society so old and so
powerful and so mysterious that one might speak of it only in whispers
for fear of getting into trouble. This indeed was _the_ great
organization of the world, in China and everywhere else. Kings and
potentates knew of it and trembled before its power. If it wished it
could sweep the Chinese Emperor and all European monarchs off their
thrones tomorrow. There were rites, mysteries, sanctuaries within
sanctuaries in this great organization. He himself was as yet a mere
outsider, snooping about, but by degrees, slowly and surely, as I was
given to understand, was worming its secrets out of these Chinese
restaurant-keepers and laundrymen, its deepest mysteries, whereby he
hoped to profit in this way: he was going to study Chinese, then go to
China. There he would get into this marvelous organization through the
influence of some of his Chinese friends here. Then he was going to get
next to some of the officials of the Chinese Government, and being thus
highly recommended and thought of would come back here eventually as an
official Chinese interpreter, attached perhaps to the Chinese Legation
at Washington. How he was to profit so vastly by this I could not see,
but he seemed to think that he would.

Again, there was his literary world which he was always dreaming about
and slaving over, his art ambitions, into which I was now by degrees
permitted to look. He was forging ahead in that realm, and since I was
doing fairly well as a daily scribbler it might be that I would be able
to perceive a little of all he was hoping to do. His great dream or
scheme was to study the underworld life of St. Louis at first hand,
those horrible, grisly, waterfront saloons and lowest tenderloin dives
and brothels south of Market and east of Eighth where, listening to the
patois of thieves and pimps and lechers and drug-fiends and murderers
and outlaws generally, he was to extract from them, aside from their
stories, some bizarre originality of phrase and scene that was to stand
him in good stead in the composition of his tales. Just now, so he told
me, he was content with making notes, jotting down scraps of
conversation heard at bars, in sloppy urinals, cheap dance-halls, and I
know not what. With a little more time and a little more of that slowly
arriving sanity which comes to most of us eventually, I am inclined to
think that he might have made something out of all this; he was so much
in earnest, so patient; only, as I saw it, he was filled with an almost
impossible idealism and romance which threw nearly everything out of
proportion. He naturally inclined to the arabesque and the grotesque,
but in no balanced way. His dreams were too wild, his mood at nearly all
times too utterly romantic, his deductions far beyond what a sane
contemplation of the facts warranted.

And relative to this period I could other tales unfold. He and Peter,
long before I had arrived on the scene, had surrounded themselves with a
company of wayfarers of their own: down-and-out English army officers
and grafting younger sons of good families, a Frenchman or two, one of
whom was a poet, several struggling artists who grafted on them, and a
few weird and disreputable characters so degraded and nondescript that I
could never make out just what their charm was. At least two of these
had suitable rooms, where, in addition to Dick’s and mine, we were
accustomed to meet. There were parties, Sunday and evening walks or
trips, dinners. Poems, on occasion, were read, original, first-hand
compositions; Dick’s stories, as Peter invariably insisted, were
“inflicted,” the “growler” or “duck” (a tin bucket of good size) was
“rushed” for beer, and cheese and crackers and hot crawfish, sold by old
ambling negroes on the streets after midnight, were bought and consumed
with gusto. Captain Simons, Captain Seller, Toussaint, Benèt—these are
names of figures that are now so dim as to be mere wraiths, ranged about
a smoky, dimly lighted room in some downtown rooming-house. Both Dick
and Peter had reached that distinguished state where they were the
center of attraction as well as supports and props to these others, and
between them got up weird entertainments, knockabout Dutch comedian
acts, which they took down to some wretched dance-hall and staged, each
“doing a turn.” The glee over the memory of these things as they now
narrated them to me!

Wood was so thin physically and so vigorous mentally that he was
fascinating to look at. He had an idea that this bohemianism and his
story work were of the utmost importance; and so they were if they had
been but a prelude to something more serious, or if his dreams could
only have been reduced to paper and print. There was something that lay
in his eye, a ray. There was an aroma to his spirit which was delicious.
As I get him now, he was a rather underdone Poe or de Maupassant or
Manet, and assuredly a portion of the makings was certainly there. For
at times the moods he could evoke in me were poignant, and he saw beauty
and romance in many and strange ways and places. I have seen him enter a
dirty, horrible saloon in one of St. Louis’s lowest dive regions with
the air of a Prince Charming and there seat himself at some sloppy
table, his patent leather low-quarters scraping the sanded or sawdusted
floor, order beer and then, smiling genially upon all, begin to
transcribe from memory whole sections of conversations he had heard
somewhere, in the street perhaps, all the while racking his brain to
recall the exact word and phrase. Unlike myself, he had a knack of
making friends with these shabby levee and underworld characters,
syphilitic, sodden, blue-nosed bums mostly, whom he picked up from
Heaven knows where. And how he seemed to prize their vile language,
their lies and their viler thoughts!

And there was McCord, bless his enthusiastic, materialistic heart, who
seemed to take fire from this joint companionship and was determined to
do something, he scarcely knew what—draw, paint, write,
collect—anything. His mind was so wrought up by the rich pattern which
life was weaving before his eyes that he could scarcely sleep at nights.
He was for prowling about with us these winter and spring days, looking
at the dark city after work hours, or investigating these wretched dives
with Dick and myself. Or, the three of us would take a banjo, a mandolin
and a flute (McCord could perform on the flute and Dick on the mandolin)
and go to Forrest Park or one of the minor parks on the south side, and
there proceed to make the night hideous with our carolings until some
solid policeman, assuming that the public had rights, would interfere
and bid us depart. Our invariable retort on all such occasions was that
we were newspaper men and artists and as such entitled to courtesies
from the police, which the thick-soled minion of the law would
occasionally admit. Sometimes we would go to Dick’s room or mine and
chatter and sing until dawn, when, somewhat subdued, we would seek out
some German saloon-keeper whom either Peter or Wood knew, rouse him out
of his slumbers and demand that he come down and supply us with ham and
eggs and beer.

My stage critical work having vivified my desire to write a play or
comic opera on the order of _Wang_ or _The Isle of Champagne_, two of
the reigning successes of that day, or the pleasing _Robin Hood_ of de
Koven, I set about this task as best I might, scribbling scenes, bits of
humor, phases of character. In this idea I was aided and abetted not
only by Wood and McCord, both of whom by now seemed to think I might do
something, but by the fact that the atmosphere of the _Globe_ office, as
well as of St. Louis itself, was, for me at least, inspirational and
creative. I liked the world in which I now found myself. There were
about me and in the city so many who seemed destined to do great
things—Wood, McCord, Hazard, a man by the name of Bennett who was
engaged in sociologic propaganda of one kind and another, William Marion
Reedy, already editing the _Mirror_, Albert Johnson, a most brilliant
reporter who had, preceding my coming, resigned from the _Globe_ and
gone over to the _Chronicle_, Alfred Robyn, composer of _Answer_ and
_Marizanillo_, one of whose operas was even then being given a local
tryout. I have mentioned the wonderful W. C. Brann who preceded me in
writing “Heard in the Corridors” and who later stirred America with the
_Iconoclast_.

All this, plus the fact that Augustus Thomas had come from here, a
reporter on the _Post-Dispatch_, and that I was now seeing one of his
plays, _In Missouri_, moved me to the point where I finally thought out
what I considered a fairly humorous plot for a comic opera, which was to
be called _Jeremiah I_. It was based on the idea of transporting, by
reason of his striking accidentally a mythical Aztec stone on his farm,
an old Indiana farmer of a most cantankerous and inquisitive disposition
from the era in which he then was back into that of the Aztecs of
Mexico, where, owing to a religious invocation then being indulged in
with a view to discovering a new ruler, he was assumed to be the answer.
Beginning as a cowardly refugee in fear for his life, he was slowly
changed into an amazing despot, having at one time as many as three
hundred ex-advisers or Aztec secretaries of state in one pen awaiting
poisoning. He was to be dissuaded from carrying out this plan by his
desire for a certain Aztec maiden, who was to avoid him until he
repented of his crimes. She eventually persuaded him to change the form
of government from that of a despotism to that of a republic, with
himself as candidate for President.

There was nothing much to it. Its only humor lay in the thought or sight
of a cranky, curious, critical farmer super-imposed upon ancient
architecture and forms of worship. Having once thought it out, however,
and being pleased with it, I worked at it feverishly nights when I was
not on assignments, and in a week or less had a rough outline of it,
lyrics and all. I told McCord and Wood about it. And so great was their
youthful encouragement that at once I saw this as the way out of my
difficulties, the path to that great future I desired. I would become
the author of comic opera books. Already I saw myself in New York, rich,
famous.

But at that time I could not possibly write without constant
encouragement, and having roughed out the opera I now burned for
assistance in developing it in detail. At last I went to Peter and told
him of my difficulty, my inability to go ahead. He seemed to relish the
whole idea hugely, so much so that he made the thing seem far more
plausible and easy for me to do and urged me to go ahead, not to faint
or get cold feet. Enamored of costumes and gorgeous settings, he even
went so far as to first suggest and then later work out in water color,
suggestions for costumes and color schemes which I thought wonderful. I
was lifted to the seventh heaven. To think that I had worked out
something which he considered interesting!

Later that evening, at Peter’s suggestion I outlined portions of it to
Wood. He also seemed to believe that it was good. He insisted that there
must be an evening at his room or mine when I would read it all to them.
Accordingly a week later I read it in Dick’s room, to much partial
applause of course. What else could they do? Peter even went so far as
to suggest that he would love to act the part of Jeremiah I, and
forthwith began to give us imitations of the prospective king’s
mannerisms and characteristics. Whatever the merit of the manuscript
itself, certainly we imagined Peter’s characterizations to be funny.
Later he brought me as many as fifty designs of costumes and scenes in
color, which appealed to me as having novelty as well as beauty. He had
evidently worked for weeks, nights after hours and mornings before
coming to the office and on Sundays. By this I was so thrilled that I
could scarcely believe my eyes. To think that I had written the book of
a real comic opera that should be deemed worthy of this, and that it was
within the range of possibility that it would some day be produced!

I began to feel myself a personage, although at bottom I mistrusted the
reality of it all. Fate could not be that kind, not so swift. I should
never get it produced ... and yet, like the man in the Arabian fable who
kicked over his tray of glassware, dreaming great dreams, I was tending
toward the same thing. There was always in me the saving grace of doubt
or self-mistrust. I was never quite sure that I should be able to do all
that at times I was inclined to hope I might, and so was usually
inclined to go about my work as nervously and as enthusiastically as
ever, hoping that I might have some of the good fortune of which I
dreamed, but never seriously depending on it.

Perhaps it would have been better for me had I.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XXXII


WHILE I rejoiced in the thought that I might now, and so easily, become
a successful comic opera librettist, and a poet besides, still I found
myself for the most part in a very gloomy frame of mind. One of the
things that grieved me intensely, as I have said, was the sight of
bitter poverty and failure, and the fact that I personally was not one
of those solid commercial figures of which St. Louis was full at this
time. They filled the great hotels, the clubs, the mansions, the social
positions of importance. They were free, as I foolishly thought, to
indulge in all those luxuries and pleasures which, as I so sadly saw,
the poor were not privileged to enjoy, myself included. Just about that
time there was something about a commercial institution—its exterior
simplicity and bareness, the thrash of its inward life, its suggestion
of energy, force, compulsion and need—which invariably held me
spellbound. Despite my literary and artistic ambitions, I still
continued to think it essential, to me, and to all men for that matter
if they were to have any force and dignity in this world, that each and
every one should be in control of something of this kind, something
commercially and financially successful. And what was I—a pale sprout of
a newspaper man, possibly an editor or author in the future, but what
more?

At times this state of mind tended to make me irritable and even savage
instead of sad. I thought that my very generous benefactor, the great
McCullagh, ought to see what an important man I was and give me at once
the dramatic editorship free and clear of any other work, or at least
combine it with something better than mere reporting. I ought to be
allowed to do editorials or special work. Again, my mind, although
largely freed of Catholic and religious dogma generally and the belief
in the workability of the Christian ideals as laid down in the Sermon on
the Mount, was still swashing around among the idealistic maxims of
Christ and the religionists and moralists generally, contrasting them
hourly, as it were, with the selfish materialism of the day as I saw it.
Look at the strong men at the top, I was constantly saying to myself, so
comfortable, so indifferent, so cruelly dull. How I liked to flail them
with maxims excerpted from Christ! Those large districts south of the
business heart, along the river and elsewhere, which nightly or weekly
Wood, McCord and myself were investigating and which were crowded with
the unfit, the unsuccessful, the unhappy—how they haunted me and how I
attempted (in my mind, of course) to indict society and comfort them
with the poetic if helpless words of the Beatitudes and the Sermon on
the Mount: “Blessed are the poor,” etc. Betimes, interviewing one
important citizen and another, I gained the impression that they truly
despised any one who was poor, that they did not give him or his fate a
second thought; and betimes I was right—other times wrong. But having
been reared on maxims relative to Christian duty I thought they should
devote their all to the poor. This failure on their part seemed terrible
to me, for having been taught to believe in the Sermon on the Mount I
thought they—not myself, for instance—were the ones to make it work out.
Mr. McCullagh had begun sending me out of town on various news stories,
which was in itself the equivalent of a traveling correspondentship and
might readily have led to my being officially recognized as such if I
had remained there long enough. Trials of murder cases in St. Joseph and
Hannibal, threatened floods in lower Illinois, and train robberies
(common occurrences in this region, either between St. Louis and Kansas
City, or St. Louis and Louisville) made it necessary for me to make
arrangements with Hazard or Wood to carry on my dramatic work while I
went about these tasks; a necessity which I partly relished and partly
disliked, being uncertain as to which was the more important task to me.

However, I was far from satisfied. I was too restless and dissatisfied.
Life, life, life, its contrasts, disappointments, lacks, enticements,
was always prodding me. The sun might shine brightly, the winds of
fortune blow favorably. Nevertheless, though I might enjoy both, there
was always this undertone of something that was not happiness. I was not
placed right. I was not this, I was not that. Life was slipping away
fast (and I was twenty-one!). I could see the tiny sands of my little
life’s hourglass sifting down, and what was I achieving? Soon the
strength time, the love time, the gay time, of color and romance, would
be gone, and if I had not spent it fully, joyously, richly what would
there be left for me then? The joys of a mythical heaven or hereafter
played no part in my calculations. When one was dead one was dead for
all time. Hence the reason for the heartbreak over failure here and now;
the awful tragedy of a love lost, a youth never properly enjoyed. Think
of living and yet not living in so thrashing a world as this, the best
of one’s hours passing unused or not properly used. Think of seeing this
tinkling phantasmagoria of pain and pleasure, beauty and all its sweets,
go by, and yet being compelled to be a bystander, a mere onlooker,
enhungered but never satisfied! In this mood I worked on, doing
sometimes good work because I was temporarily fascinated and
entertained, at other times grumbling and dawdling and moaning over what
seemed to me the horrible humdrum of it all.

One day, in just such a mood as this, I received the following final
letter from Alice, from whom I had not heard now in months:

    “Dear Theo,

    “Tomorrow is my wedding-day. Tomorrow at twelve. This may strike
    you as strange. Well, I have waited—I don’t know how long—it has
    seemed like years to me—for some word, but I knew it was not to
    be. Your last letter showed me that. I knew that you did not
    intend to return, and so I went back to Mr. ——. I had to. What
    else have I to look forward to? You know how unhappy I am here
    with my family, now that you are gone, in spite of how much they
    care for me.

    “Oh, Theo, you must think me foolish for writing this. I am
    ashamed of myself. Still, I wanted to let you know, and to say
    good-bye, for although you have been indifferent I cannot bear
    any hard feelings toward you. I will make Mr. —— a good wife. He
    understands I do not love him, but that I appreciate him.
    Tomorrow I will marry him, unless—unless something happens. You
    ought not to have told me that you loved me, Theo, unless you
    could have stayed with me. You have caused me so much pain.

    “But I must say good-bye. This is the last letter I shall ever
    write you. Don’t send my letters now—tear them up. It is too
    late. Oh, if you only knew how hard it has been to bring myself
    to this!

                                                            “ALICE.”

I sat and stared at the floor after reading this. The pain I had caused
was a heavy weight. The implication that if I would come to Chicago
before noon of this day, or telegraph for her to delay, was too much.
What if I should go to Chicago and get her—then what? To her it would be
a beautiful thing, the height of romance, saving her from a cruel or
dreary fate; but what of me? Should I be happy? Was my profession or my
present restless and uncertain state of mind anything to base a marriage
on? I knew it was not.... I also knew that Alice, in spite of my great
sadness and affection for her, was really nothing more to me than a
passing bit of beauty, charming in itself but of no great import to me.
I was sad for her and for myself, saddest because of that chief
characteristic of mine and of life which will not let anything endure
permanently: love, wealth, fame. I was too restless, too changeful.
There rose before me a picture of my finances as compared with what they
ought to be, and of any future in marriage based on it. Actually, as I
looked at it then, it was more the fault of life than mine.

These thoughts, balancing with the wish I had for greater advancement,
caused me as usual to hesitate. But I was in no danger of doing anything
impulsive: there was no great impelling passion in this. It was mere
sentiment, growing more and more roseate and less and less operative. I
groaned inwardly, but night came and the next day, and I had not
answered. At noon Alice had been married, as she afterward told me—years
afterward, when the fire was all gone and this romance was ended
forever.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XXXIII


THUS it was that I dawdled about the city wondering what would become of
me. My dramatic work, interesting as it was, was still so trivial in so
far as the space given it and the public’s interest in it were concerned
as to make it all but worthless. The great McCullagh was not interested
in the stage; the proof of it was that he entrusted this interesting
department to me. But circumstances were bringing about an onward if not
upward step. I was daily becoming so restless and unhappy that it would
have been strange if something had not happened. To think that there was
no more to this dramatic work for me than now appeared, and that in
addition Mr. McCullagh was allowing Mr. Mitchell to give me afternoon
and night or out-of-town assignments when I had important theatrical
performances to report! As a matter of fact they were not important, but
Mitchell had no consideration for my critical work. He continued to give
me two or three things to do on nights when, as he knew or I thought he
should, I should spend the evening witnessing a single performance. This
was to pay me out, so I thought, for going over his head. I grew more
and more resentful, and finally a catastrophe occurred.

It happened that one Sunday night late in April three shows were
scheduled to arrive in the city, each performance being worthy of
special attention. Nearly all new shows opened in St. Louis on Sunday
night and it was impossible for me to attend them all in one evening. I
might have given both Dick and Peter tickets and asked them to help me,
but I decided, since this was a custom practiced by my predecessor at
times, to write up the notices beforehand, the facts being culled from
various press-agent accounts already in my hands, and then comment more
fully on the plays in some notes which I published mid-week. It
happened, however, that on this particular evening Mr. Mitchell had
other plans for me. Without consulting me or my theatrical duties he
handed me at about seven in the evening a slip of paper containing a
notice of a street-car hold-up in the far western suburbs of the city. I
was about to protest that my critical work demanded my presence
elsewhere but concluded to hold my tongue. He would merely advise me to
write up the notices of the shows, as I had planned, or, worse yet, tell
me to let other people do them. I thought once of going to McCullagh and
protesting, but finally went my way determined to do the best I could
and protest later. I would hurry up on this assignment and then come
back and visit the theaters.

When I reached the scene of the supposed hold-up there was nothing to
guide me. The people at the car-barns did not know anything about it and
the crew that had been held up was not present. I visited a far outlying
police station but the sergeant in charge could tell me nothing more
than that the crime was not very important, a few dollars stolen. I went
to the exact spot but there were no houses in the neighborhood, only a
barren stretch of track lying out in a rain-soaked plain. It was a
gloomy, wet night, and I decided to return to the city. When I reached a
car-line it was late, too late for me to do even a part of my critical
work; the long distance out and the walks to the car-barn and the police
station had consumed much time. As I neared the city I found that it was
eleven o’clock. What chance had I to visit the theaters then? I asked
myself angrily. How was I to know if the shows had even arrived? There
had been heavy rains all over the West for the last week and there had
been many wash-outs.

I finally got off in front of the nearest theater and went up to the
door; it was silent and dark. I thought of asking the drugman who
occupied a corner of the building, but that seemed a silly thing to be
doing at this hour and I let it go. I thought of telephoning to the
rival paper, the _Republic_, when I reached the office, but when I got
there I had first to report to Mitchell, who was just leaving, and then,
irritated and indifferent, I put it off for the moment. Perhaps Hartung
would know.

“Do you know what time the first edition goes to press here, Hugh?” I
asked him at a quarter after twelve.

“Twelve-thirty, I think. The telegraph man can tell you.”

“Do you know whether the dramatic stuff I sent up this afternoon gets in
that?”

“Sure—at least I think it does. You’d better ask the foreman of the
composing-room about it, though.”

I went upstairs. Instead of calling up the _Republic_ at once, or any of
the managers of the theaters, or knocking out the notices entirely, I
inquired how matters stood with the first edition. I was not sure that
there was any reason for worrying about the shows not arriving, but
something kept telling me to make sure.

At last I found that the first edition had been closed, with the notices
in it, and went to the telephone to call up the _Republic_. Then the
dramatic editor of that paper had gone and I could not find the address
of a single manager. I tried to reach one of the theaters, but there was
no response. The clock registered twelve-thirty by then, and I weakly
concluded that things must be all right or that if they weren’t I
couldn’t help it. I then went home and to bed and slept poorly, troubled
by the thought that something might be wrong and wishing now that I had
not been so lackadaisical about it all. Why couldn’t I attend to things
at the proper time instead of dawdling about in this fashion? I sighed
and tried to sleep.

The next morning I arose and went through the two morning papers without
losing any time. To my horror and distress, there in the _Republic_ was
an announcement on the first page to the effect that owing to various
wash-outs in several States none of the three shows had arrived the
night before. And in my own paper, to my great pain was a full account
of the performances and the agreeable reception accorded them!

“Oh, Lord!” I groaned. “What will McCullagh say? What will the other
papers say? Three shows reviewed, and not one here!” And in connection
with one I had written: “A large and enthusiastic audience received Mr.
Sol Smith Russell” at the Grand. And in connection with another that the
gallery of Pope’s Theater “was top-heavy.” The perspiration burst from
my forehead. Remembering Sisseretta Jones and my tendency to draw the
lightning of public observation and criticism, I began to speculate as
to what newspaper criticism would follow this last _faux pas_. “Great
God!” I thought. “Wait till he sees this!” and I was ready to weep. At
once I saw myself not only the laughing-stock of the town but discharged
as well. Think of being discharged now, after all my fine dreams as to
the future!

Without delay I proceeded to the office and removed my few belongings,
resolved to be prepared for the worst. With the feeling that I owed Mr.
McCullagh an explanation I sat down and composed a letter to him in
which I explained, from my point of view, just how the thing had
happened. I did not attack Mr. Mitchell or seek to shield myself but
merely illustrated how I had been expected to handle my critical work in
this office. I also added how kind I thought he had been, how much I
valued his personal regard, and asked him not to think too ill of me.
This letter I placed in an envelope addressed to “Mr. Joseph B.
McCullagh, Personal,” and going into his private office before any
others had come down laid it on his desk. Then I retired to my room to
await the afternoon papers and think.

They were not long in appearing, and neither of the two leading
afternoon papers had failed to notice the blunder. With the most
delicate, laughing raillery they had seized upon this latest error of
the great _Globe_ as a remarkable demonstration of what they affected to
believe was its editor’s lately acquired mediumistic and psychic powers.
The _Globe_ was regularly writing up various séances, slate-writing
demonstrations and the like, in St. Louis and elsewhere, things which
Mr. McCullagh was interested in or considered good circulation builders,
and this was now looked upon as a fresh demonstration of his development
in that line. “Oh, Lord! Oh, Lord!” I groaned when I read the following:

“To see three shows at once,” observed the _Post-Dispatch_, “and those
three widely separated by miles of country and washed-out sections of
railroad in three different States (Illinois, Iowa and Missouri), is
indeed a triumph; but also to see them as having arrived, or as they
would have been had they arrived, and displaying their individual
delights to three separate audiences of varying proportions assembled
for that purpose is truly amazing, one of the finest demonstrations of
mediumship—or perhaps we had better say materialization—yet known to
science. Great, indeed, is McCullagh. Great the _G.-D._ Indeed, now that
we think of it, it is an achievement so astounding that even the _Globe_
may well be proud of it—one of the finest flights of which the human
mind or the great editor’s psychic strength is capable. We venture to
say that no spiritualist or materializing medium has ever outrivaled it.
We have always known that Mr. McCullagh is a great man. The illuminating
charm of his editorial page is sufficient proof of that. But this latest
essay of his into the realm of combined dramatic criticism, supernatural
insight, and materialization, is one of the most perfect things of its
kind and can only be attributed to genius in the purest form. It is
psychic, supernatural, spooky.”

The _Evening Chronicle_ for its part troubled to explain how ably and
interestedly the spirit audiences and actors, although they might as
well have been resting, the actors at least not having any contract
which compelled their subconscious or psychic selves to work, had
conducted themselves, doing their parts without a murmur. It was also
here hinted that in future it would not be necessary for the _Globe_ to
carry a dramatic critic, seeing that the psychic mind of its chief was
sufficient. Anyhow it was plain that the race was fast reaching that
place where it could perceive in advance that which was about to take
place; in proof of this it pointed of course to the noble mind which now
occupied the editorial chair of the _Globe-Democrat_, seeing all this
without moving from his office.

I was agonized. Sweat rolled from my forehead; my nerves twitched. And
to think that this was the second time within no more than a month that
I had made my great benefactor the laughing-stock of the city! What must
he think of me? I could see him at that moment reading these
editorials.... He would discharge me....

Not knowing what to do, I sat and brooded. Gone were all my fine dreams,
my great future, my standing in the eyes of men and of this paper! What
was to become of me now? I saw myself returning to Chicago—to do what?
What would Peter, Dick, Hazard, Johnson, Bellairs, all my new found
friends, think? Instead of going boldly to the office and seeing my
friends, who were still fond of me if laughing at my break, or Mr.
McCullagh, I slipped about the city meditating on my fate and wondering
what I was to do.

For at least a week, during the idlest hours of the morning and evening,
I would slip out and get a little something to eat or loiter in an old
but little-frequented book-store in Walnut Street, hoping to keep myself
out of sight and out of mind. In a spirit of intense depression I picked
up a few old books, deciding to read more, to make myself more fit for
life. I also decided to leave St. Louis, since no one would have me
here, and began to think of Chicago, whether I could stand it to return
there, or whether I had better drift on to a strange place. But how
should I live or travel, since I had very little money—having wasted it,
as I now thought, on riotous living! The unhappy end of a spendthrift!

Finally, after mooning about for a day or two more I concluded that I
should have to leave my fine room and try to earn some money here so as
to be able to leave. And so one morning, without venturing near the
_Globe_ and giving the principal meeting-places of reporters and friends
a wide berth, I went into the office of the St. Louis _Republic_, then
thriving fairly well in an old building at Third and Chestnut streets.
Here with a heavy heart, I awaited the coming of the city editor, H. B.
Wandell, of whom I had heard a great deal but whom I had never seen.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XXXIV


THE _Republic_ was in a tumbledown old building in a fairly deserted
neighborhood in that region near the waterfront from which the city
proper had been steadily growing away for years. This paper, if I am not
mistaken, was founded in 1808.

The office was so old and rattletrap that it was discouraging. The
elevator was a slow and wheezy box, bumping and creaking and suggesting
immediate collapse. The boards of the entrance-hall and the city
editorial room squeaked under one’s feet. The city reportorial room,
where I should work if I secured a place, was larger than that of the
_Globe_ and higher-ceiled, but beyond that it had no advantage. The
windows were tall but cracked and patched with faded yellow copy-paper;
the desks, some fifteen or twenty all told, were old, dusty,
knife-marked, smeared with endless ages of paste and ink. There was
waste paper and rubbish on the floor. There was no sign of either paint
or wallpaper. The windows facing east looked out upon a business court
or alley where trucks and vans creaked all day but which at night was
silent as the grave, as was this entire wholesale neighborhood. The
buildings directly opposite were decayed wholesale houses of some
unimportant kind where in slimsy rags of dresses or messy trousers and
shirts girls and boys of from fourteen to twenty worked all day, the
girls’ necks in summer time open to their breasts and their sleeves
rolled to their shoulders, the boys in sleeveless undershirts and
tight-belted trousers and with tousled hair. What their work was I
forget, but flirting with each other or with the reporters and printers
of this paper occupied a great deal of their time.

The city editor, H. B. Wandell, was one of those odd, forceful
characters who because of my youth and extreme impressionability perhaps
and his own vigor and point of view succeeded in making a deep
impression on me at once. He was such a queer little man, so different
from Mitchell and McCullagh, nervous, jumpy, restless, vigorous, with
eyes so piercing that they reminded one of a hawk’s and a skin so
swarthy that it was Italian in quality and made all the more emphatic by
a large, humped, protruding nose pierced by big nostrils. His hands were
wrinkled and claw-like, and he had large yellowish teeth which showed
rather fully when he laughed. And that laugh! I can hear it yet, a cross
between a yelp and a cackle. It always seemed to me to be a mirthless
laugh, insincere, and yet also it had an element of appreciation in it.
He could see a point at which others ought to laugh without apparently
enjoying it himself. He was at once a small and yet a large man
mentally, wise and incisive in many ways, petty and even venomous in
others, a man to coddle and placate if you were beholden to him, one to
avoid if you were not, but on the whole a man above the average in
ability.

And he had the strangest, fussiest, bossiest love of great literature of
any one I have ever known, especially in the realm of the newspapers.
Zola at this time was apparently his ideal of what a writer should be,
and after him Balzac and Loti. He seemed to know them well and to admire
and even love them, after his fashion. He was always calling upon me to
imitate Zola’s vivid description of the drab and the gross and the
horrible if I could, assuming that I had read him, which I had not, but
I did not say so. And Balzac’s and Loti’s sure handling of the sensual
and the poignant! How often have I heard him refer to them with
admiration, giving me the line and phrase of certain stark pictures, and
yet at the same time there was a sneaking bending of the knee to the
middle West conventions of which he was a part, a kind of horror of
having it known that he approved of these things. He was a Shriner and
very proud of it, as he was of various other local organizations to
which he belonged. He had the reputation of being one of the best city
editors in the city, far superior to my late master. Previously he had
been city editor of the _Globe_ itself for many years and was still
favorably spoken of in that office. After I left St. Louis he returned
to the _Globe_ for a time and once more became its guide in local news.

But that is neither here nor there save as it illustrates what is a
cardinal truth of the newspaper world: that the best of newspaper men
are occasionally to be found on the poorest of papers, and vice versa.
Just at this time, as I understood, he was here because the _Republic_
was making a staggering effort to build itself up in popular esteem,
which it finally succeeded in doing after McCullagh’s death, becoming
once more the leading morning paper as it had been before the _Globe_,
under McCullagh, arose to power. Just now, however, in my despondent
mood, it seemed an exceedingly sad affair.

Mr. Wandell, as I now learned, had heard of me and my recent _faux pas_,
as well as some of the other things I had been doing.

“Been working on the _Globe_, haven’t you?” he commented when I
approached him. “What did they pay you?”

I told him.

“When did you leave there?”

“About a week ago.”

“Why did you leave?”

“Perhaps you saw those notices of three shows that didn’t come to town?
I’m the man who wrote them up.”

“Oho! ho! ho!” and he began eyeing me drily and slapping his knee. “I
saw those. Ha! ha! ha! Ha! ha! ha! Yes, that was very funny—very. We had
an editorial on it. And so McCullagh fired you, did he?”

“No, sir,” I replied indignantly. “I quit. I thought he might want to,
and I put a letter on his desk and left.”

“Ha! ha! ha! Quite right! That’s very funny! I know just how they do
over there. I was city editor there myself once. They write them up in
advance sometimes. We do here. Where do you come from?”

I told him. He meditated awhile, as though he were uncertain whether he
needed any one.

“You say you got thirty dollars there? I couldn’t pay anybody that much
here—not to begin with. We never give more than eighteen to begin with.
Besides, I have a full staff just now, and it’s summer. I might use
another man if eighteen would be enough. You might think it over and
come in and see me again some time.”

Although my spirits fell at so great a drop in salary I hastened to
explain that I would be glad to accept eighteen. I needed to be at work
again.

“Whatever you would consider fair would suit me,” I said.

He smiled. “The newspaper market is low just now. If your work proves
satisfactory I may raise you a little later on.” He must have seen that
he had a soft and more or less unsophisticated boy to deal with.

“Suppose you write me a little article about something, just to show me
what you can do,” he added.

I went away insulted by this last request. In spite of all he said I
could feel that he wanted me; but I had no skill in manipulating my own
affairs. To drop from thirty dollars as dramatic editor to eighteen as a
mere reporter was terrible. With a grain of philosophic melancholy I
faced it, however, feeling that if I worked hard I might yet get a start
in some way or other. I must work and save some money and if I did not
better myself I would leave St. Louis. My ability must be worth
something somewhere; it had been on the _Globe_.

I went home and wrote the article (a mere nothing about some street
scene), went back to the office and left it. Next day I called again.

“All right,” he said. “You can go to work.”

I went back into that large shabby room and took a seat. In a few
minutes the place filled up with the staff, most of whom I knew and all
of whom eyed me curiously—reporters, special editors, the city editor
and his assistant, Mr. Williams of blessed memory, one-eyed, sad,
impressive, intelligent, who had nothing but kind things to say of what
I wrote and who was friendly and helpful until the day I left.

In a little while the assignment book was put out, with the task I was
to undertake. Before I left I was called in and advised concerning it. I
went and looked into it (I have forgotten what it was) and reported
later in the day. What I wrote I turned over to Mr. Williams, and later
in the day when I asked him if it was all right he said: “Yes, quite all
right. It reads all right to me,” and then gave me a kindly, one-eyed
smile. I liked him from the first day; he was a better editor than
Wandell, with more taste and discrimination, and later rose to a higher
position elsewhere.

Meanwhile I strolled about thinking of my great fall. It seemed as
though I should never get over this. But in a few days I was back in my
old reportorial routine, depressed but secure, convinced that I could
write as well as ever, and for any newspaper.

For the romance of my own youth was still upon me, my ambitions and my
dreams coloring it all. Does the gull sense the terrors of the deep, or
the butterfly the traps and snares of the woods and fields? Roaming this
keen, new, ambitious mid-Western city, life-hungry and love-hungry and
underpaid, eager and ambitious, I still found so much in the worst to
soothe, so much in the best to torture me. In every scene of ease or
pleasure was both a lure and a reproach; in every aspect of tragedy or
poverty was a threat or a warning. I was never tired of looking at the
hot, hungry, weary slums, any more than I was of looking at the glories
of the mansions of the west end. Both had their lure, their charm; one
because it was a state worse than my own, the other because it was a
better—unfairly so, I thought. Amid it all I hurried, writing and
dreaming, half-laughing and half-crying, with now a tale to move me to
laughter and now another to send me to bottomless despairs. But always
youth, youth, and the crash of the presses in the basement and a fresh
damp paper laid on my desk of a morning with “the news” and my own petty
achievements or failures to cheer or disappoint me; so it went, day in
and day out.

The _Republic_, while not so successful as the _Globe-Democrat_, was a
much better paper for me to work on. For one thing, it took me from
under the domination of Mr. Mitchell (one can hate some people most
persistently), and placed me under one who, whatever may have been his
defects, provided me with far greater opportunities for my pen than ever
the _Globe_ had and supplied a better judgment as to what constituted a
story and a news feature. Now that I think of him, Wandell was far and
away the best judge of news, from a dramatic or story point of view, of
any for whom I ever worked.

“A good story, is it?” I can see him smirking and rubbing his hands
miser or gourmet fashion, as over a pot of gold or a fine dish. “She
said that, did she? Ha! ha! That’s excellent, excellent! You saw him
yourself, did you? And the brother too? By George, we’ll make a story of
that! Be careful how you write that now. All the facts you know, just as
far as they will carry you; but we don’t want any libel suits, remember.
We don’t want you to say anything we can’t substantiate, but I don’t
want you to be afraid either. Write it strong, clear, definite. Get in
all the touches of local color you can. And remember Zola and Balzac, my
boy, remember Zola and Balzac. Bare facts are what are needed in cases
like this, with lots of color as to the scenery or atmosphere, the room,
the other people, the street, and all that. You get me?”

And quite truly I got him, as he was pleased to admit, even though I got
but little cash out of it. I always felt, perhaps unjustly, that he made
but small if any effort to advantage me in any way except that of
writing. But what of it? He was nearly always enthusiastic over my work,
in a hard, bright, waspish way, nearly always excited about the
glittering realistic facts which one might dig up and which he was quite
determined that his paper should present. The stories! The scandals!
That hard, cruel cackle of his when he had any one cornered! He must
have known what a sham and a fake most of these mid-Western pretensions
to sanctity and purity were, and yet if he did and was irritated by them
he said little to me. Like most Americans of the time, he was probably
confused by the endless clatter concerning personal perfection, the
Christ ideal, as opposed to the actual details of life. He could not
decide for himself which was true and which false, the Christ theory or
that of Zola, but he preferred Zola when interpreting the news. When
things were looking up from a news point of view and great realistic
facts were coming to the surface regardless of local sentiment, facts
which utterly contradicted all the noble fol-de-rol of the puritans and
the religionists, he was positively transformed. In those hours when the
loom of life seemed to be weaving brilliant dramatic or tragic patterns
of a realistic, Zolaesque character he was beside himself with gayety,
trotting to and fro in the local room, leaning over the shoulders of
scribbling scribes and interrupting them to ask details or to caution
them as to certain facts which they must or must not include, beaming at
the ceiling or floor, whistling, singing, rubbing his hands—a veritable
imp or faun of pleasure and enthusiasm. Deaths, murders, great social or
political scandals or upheavals, those things which presented the rough,
raw facts of life, as well as its tenderer aspects, seemed to throw him
into an ecstasy—not over the woes of others but over the fact that he
was to have an interesting paper tomorrow.

“Ah, it was a terrible thing, was it? He killed her in cold blood, you
say? There was a great crowd out there, was there? Well, well, write it
all up. Write it all up. It looks like a pretty good story to me—doesn’t
it to you? Write a good strong introduction for it, you know, all the
facts in the first paragraph, and then go on and tell your story. You
can have as much space for it as you want—a column, a column and a half,
two—just as it runs. Let me look at it before you turn it in, though.”
Then he would begin whistling or singing, or would walk up and down in
the city room rubbing his hands in obvious satisfaction.

And how that reportorial room seemed to thrill or sing between the hours
of five and seven in the evening, when the stories of the afternoon were
coming in, or between ten-thirty and midnight, when the full grist of
the day was finally being ground out. How it throbbed with human life
and thought, quite like a mill room full of looms or a counting house in
which endless records and exchanges are being made. Those reporters,
eighteen or twenty of them, bright, cheerful, interesting, forceful
youths, each bent upon making a name for himself, each working hard,
each here bending over his desk scratching his head or ear and thinking,
his mind lost in the mazes of arrangement and composition.

Wandell had no tolerance for any but the best of newspaper reporters and
would discharge a man promptly for falling down on a story, especially
if he could connect it with the feeling that he was not as good a
newspaper man as he should be. He hated commonplace men, and once I had
become familiar with the office and with him, he would often ask me in a
spirit of unrest if I knew of an especially good one anywhere with whom
he could replace some one else whom he did not like; a thought which
jarred me but which did not prevent me from telling him. Somehow I had
an eye and a taste for exceptional men myself, and I wanted his staff to
be as good as any. So it was not long before he began to rely on me to
supply him with suitable men, so much so that I soon had the reputation
of being a local arbiter of jobs, one who could get men in or keep them
out—a thing which made me some enemies later. And it really was not true
for I could not have kept any good man out.

In the meantime, while he was trying me out to suit himself, he had been
giving me only routine work: the North Seventh Street police station
afternoons and evenings, where one or two interesting stories might be
expected every day, crimes or sordid romances of one kind or another. Or
if there was nothing much doing there I might be sent out on an
occasional crime story elsewhere. Once I had handled a few of these for
him, and to his satisfaction, I was pushed into the topnotch class and
given only the most difficult stories, those which might be called
feature crimes and sensations, which I was expected to unravel,
sometimes single-handed, and to which always I was expected to write the
lead. This realistic method of his plus a keen desire to unload all the
heavy assignments on me was in no wise bad for me. He liked me, and this
was his friendly way of showing it.

Indeed, with a ruthless inconsiderateness, as I then thought, he piled
on story after story, until I was a little infuriated at first, seeing
how little I was being paid. When nothing of immediate importance was to
be had, he proceeded to create news, studying out interesting phases of
past romances or crimes which he thought might be worth while to work up
and publish on Sunday, and handing them to me to do over. He even
created stories when the general news was dull, throwing me into the
most delicate and dangerous fields of arson, murder, theft, marital
unhappiness, and tragedies of all kinds, things not public but which by
clever detective work could be made so, and where libel and other suits
and damages lurked on either hand. Without cessation, Sunday and every
other day, he called upon me to display sentiment, humor or cold, hard,
descriptive force, as the case might be, quoting now Hugo, now Balzac,
now Dickens, and now Zola to me to show me just what was to be done. In
a little while, despite my reduced salary and the fact that I had lost
my previous place in disgrace and was not likely to get a raise here
soon, I was as much your swaggering newspaper youth as ever, strolling
about the city with the feeling that I was somebody and looking up all
my old friends, with the idea of letting them know that I was by no
means such a failure as they might imagine. Dick and Peter of course,
seeing me ambling in on them late one hot night, received me with open
arms.

“Well, you’re a good one!” yelped Dick in his high, almost falsetto
voice when I came in. I could see that he had been sitting before his
open window, which commanded Broadway, where he had been no doubt
meditating—your true romancer. “Where the hell have you been keeping
yourself? You’re a dandy? We’ve been looking for you for weeks. We’ve
been down to your place a dozen times, but you wouldn’t let us in.
You’re a dandy, you are! McCord has some more of those opera cartoons
done. Why didn’t you ever come around, anyhow?”

“I’m working down on the _Republic_ now,” I replied, blushing, “and I’ve
been busy.”

“Oho!” laughed Dick, slapping his knees. “That’s a good one on you! I
heard about it. Those shows written up, and not one in town! Oho! That’s
good!” He coughed a consumptive cough or two and relaxed.

I laughed with him. “It wasn’t really all my fault,” I said
apologetically.

“I know it wasn’t. Don’t I know the _Globe_? Didn’t Carmichael get me to
work the same racket for him? Ask Hazard. It wasn’t your fault. Sit
down. Peter’ll be here in a little while; then we’ll go out and get
something.”

We fell to discussing the attitude of the people on the _Globe_ after I
had left. Wood insisted that he had not heard much. He knew
instinctively that Mitchell was glad I was gone, as he might well have
been. Hartung had reported to him that McCullagh had raised Cain with
Mitchell and that two or three of the boys on the staff had manifested
relief.

“You know who they’d be,” continued Wood. “The fellows who can’t do what
you can but would like to.”

I smiled. “I know about who they are,” I said.

We talked about the world in general—literature, the drama, current
celebrities, the state of politics, all seen through the medium of youth
and aspiration and inexperience. While we were talking McCord came in.
He had been to his home in South St. Louis, where he preferred to live
in spite of his zest for Bohemia, and the ground had all to be gone over
with him. We settled down to an evening’s enjoyment: Dick went for beer;
Peter lit a rousing pipe. Accumulated short stories were produced and
plans for new ones recounted. At one point Peter exclaimed: “You know
what I’m going to do, Dreiser?”

“Well, what?”

“I’m going to study for the leading rôle in that opera of yours. I can
play that, and I’m going to if you don’t object—do you?”

“Object? Why should I object?” I replied, doubtful however of the wisdom
of this. Peter had never struck me as quite the actor type. “I’d like to
see you do it if you can, Peter.”

“Oh, I can, all right. That old rube appeals to me. I bet that if I ever
get on the stage I can get away with that.” He eyed Dick for
confirmation.

“I’ll bet you could,” said Dick loyally. “Peter makes a dandy rube. Oh,
will you ever forget the time we went down to the old Nickelodeon and
did a turn, Peter? Oho!”

Later the three of us left for a bite and I could see that I was as high
in their favor as ever, which restored me not a little. Peter seemed to
think that my escapades and mishaps, coupled with the attention and
discussion which my name evoked among local newspaper men, were doing me
good, making me an interesting figure. I could scarcely believe that but
I was inclined to believe that I had not fallen as low as at first I had
imagined.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXXV


THE LaClede, as I have indicated, was the center of all gossiping
newspaper life at this time, at least that part of it of which I knew
anything. Here, in idling groups, during the course of a morning,
afternoon or evening, might appear Dick or Peter, Body, Clark, Hazard,
Johnson, Root, Johns Daws, a long company of excellent newspaper men who
worked on the different papers of the city from time to time and who,
because of a desire for companionship in this helter-skelter world and
the certainty of finding it here, hung about this corner. Here one could
get in on a highly intellectual or diverting conversation of one kind or
another at almost any time. So many of these men had come from distant
cities and knew them much better than they did St. Louis. As a rule,
being total strangers and here only for a short while, they were
inclined to sniff at conditions as they found them here and to boast of
those elsewhere, especially the men who came from New York, Boston, San
Francisco and Chicago. I was one of those who, knowing Chicago and St.
Louis only and wishing to appear wise in these matters, boasted
vigorously of the superlative importance of Chicago as a city, whereas
such men as Root of New York, Johnson of Boston, Ware of New Orleans,
and a few others, merely looked at me and smiled.

“All I have to say to you, young fellow,” young Root once observed to me
genially if roughly after one of these heated and senseless arguments,
“is wait till you go to New York and see for yourself. I’ve been to
Chicago, and it’s a way-station in comparison. It’s the only other city
you’ve seen, and that’s why you think it’s so great.” There was a
certain amount of kindly toleration in his voice which infuriated me.

“Ah, you’re crazy,” I replied. “You’re like all New Yorkers: you think
you know it all. You won’t admit you’re beaten when you are.”

The argument proceeded through all the different aspects of the two
cities until finally we called each other damned fools and left in a
huff. Years later, however, having seen New York, I wanted to apologize
if ever I met him again. The two cities, as I then learned, each
individual and wonderful in its way, were not to be contrasted. But how
sure I was of my point of view then!

Nearly all of these young men, as I now saw, presented a sharp contrast
to those I had known in Chicago, or perhaps the character of the work in
this city and my own changing viewpoint made them seem different.
Chicago at that time had seemed to be full of exceptional young men in
the reportorial world, men who in one way or another had already
achieved considerable local repute as writers and coming men: Finley
Peter Dunne, George Ade, Brand Whitlock, Ben King, Charles Stewart, and
many others, some of whom even in that day were already signing their
names to some of their contributions; whereas here in St. Louis, few if
any of us had achieved any local distinction of any kind. No one of us
had as yet created a personal or literary following. We could not, here,
apparently; the avenues were not the same. And none of us was hailed as
certain to attract attention in the larger world outside. We formed
little more than a weak scholastic brotherhood or union, recognizing
each other genially enough as worthy fellow-craftsmen but not offering
each other much consolation in our rough state beyond a mere class or
professional recognition as working newspaper men. Yet at times this
LaClede was a kind of tonic bear garden, or mental wrestling-place,
where unless one were very guarded and sure of oneself one might come by
a quick and hard fall, as when once in some argument in regard to a
current political question, and without knowing really what I was
talking about, I made the statement that palaeontology indicated
so-and-so, whereupon one of my sharp confrères suddenly took me up with:
“Say, what is palaeontology, anyhow? Do you know?”

I was completely stumped, for I didn’t. It was a comparatively new word,
outside the colleges, being used here and there in arguments and
editorials, and I had glibly taken it over. I floundered about and
finally had to confess that I did not know what it was, whereupon I
endured a laugh for my pains. I was thereafter wiser and more cautious.

But this, in my raw, ignorant state, was a very great help to me. Many
of these men were intelligent and informed to the cutting point in
regard to many facts of life of which I was extremely ignorant. Many of
them had not only read more but seen more, and took my budding local
pretensions to being somebody with a very large grain of salt. At many
of the casual meetings, where at odd moments reporters and sometimes
editors were standing or sitting about and discussing one phase of life
and another, I received a back-handed slap which sometimes jarred my
pride but invariably widened my horizon.

One of the most interesting things in my life at this time was that same
North Seventh Street police station previously mentioned, to which I
went daily and which was a center for a certain kind of news at
least—rapes, riots, murders, fantastic family complications of all
kinds, so common to very poor and highly congested neighborhoods. This
particular station was the very center of a mixed ghetto, slum and negro
life, which even at this time was still appalling to me in some of its
aspects. It was all so dirty, so poor, so stuffy, so starveling. There
were in it all sorts of streets—Jewish, negro, and run-down American, or
plain slum, the first crowded with long-bearded Jews and their fat
wives, so greasy, smelly and generally offensive that they sickened me:
rag-pickers, chicken-dealers and feather-sorters all. In their streets
the smell of these things, picked or crated chickens, many of them
partially decayed, decayed meats and vegetables, half-sorted dirty
feathers and rags and I know not what else, was sickening in hot
weather. In the negro streets—or rather alleys, for they never seemed to
occupy any general thoroughfare—were rows or one-, two-, three-and
four-story shacks or barns of frame or brick crowded into back yards and
with thousands of blacks of the most shuffling and idle character
hanging about. In these hot days of June, July and August they seemed to
do little save sit or lie in the shade of buildings in this vicinity and
swap yarns or contemplate the world with laughter or in silence.
Occasionally there was a fight, a murder or a low love affair among them
which justified my time here. In addition, there were those other
streets of soggy, decayed Americans—your true slum—filled with as low
and cantankerous a population of whites as one would find anywhere, a
type of animal dangerous to the police themselves, for they could riot
and kill horribly and were sullen at best. Invariably the police
traveled here in pairs, and whenever an alarm from some policeman on his
beat was turned in from this region a sergeant and all the officers in
the station at the time would set forth to the rescue, sometimes as many
as eight or ten in a police wagon, with orders, as I myself have heard
them given, “to club the —— heads off them” or “break their —— bones,
but bring them in here. I’ll fix ’em”; in response to which all the
stolid Irish huskies would go forth to battle, returning frequently with
a whole vanload of combatants or alleged combatants, all much the worse
for the contest.

There was an old fat Irish sergeant of about fifty or fifty-five, James
King by name, who used to amuse me greatly. He ruled here like a
potentate under the captain, whom I rarely saw. The latter had an office
to himself in the front of the station and rarely came out, seeming
always to be busy with bigwigs of one type and another. With the
sergeant, however, I became great friends. His place was behind the
central desk, in the front of which were two light standards and on the
surface of which were his blotter and reports of different kinds. Behind
the desk was his big tilted swivel chair, with himself in it, stout,
perspiring, coatless, vestless, collarless, his round head and fat neck
beady with sweat, his fat arms and hands moist and laid heavily over his
protuberant stomach. According to him, he had been at this work exactly
eight years, and before that he had “beat the sidewalk,” as he said, or
traveled a beat.

“Yes, yes, ‘tis a waarm avenin’,” he would begin whenever I arrived and
he was not busy, which usually he was not, “an’ there’s naathin’ for ye,
me lad. But ye might just as well take a chair an’ make yerself
comfortable. It may be that something will happen, an’ again maybe it
won’t. Ye must hope fer the best, as the sayin’ is. ’Tis a bad time fer
any trouble to be breakin’ out though, in all this hot weather,” and
then he would elevate a large palmleaf fan which he kept near and begin
to fan himself, or swig copiously from a pitcher of ice-water.

Here then he would sit, answering telephone calls from headquarters or
marking down reports from the men on their beats or answering the
complaints of people who came in hour after hour to announce that they
had been robbed or their homes had been broken into or that some
neighbor was making a nuisance of himself or their wives or husbands or
sons or daughters wouldn’t obey them or stay in at night.

“Yes, an’ what’s the matter now?” he would begin when one of these would
put in an appearance.

Perhaps it was a man who would be complaining that his wife or daughter
would not stay in at night, or a woman complaining so of her husband,
son or daughter.

“Well, me good woman, I can’t be helpin’ ye with that. This is no court
av laaw. If yer husband don’t support ye, er yer son don’t come in av
nights an’ he’s a minor, ye can get an order from the judge at the Four
Courts compellin’ him. Then if he don’t mind ye and ye waant him
arrested er locked up, I can help ye that way, but not otherwise. Go to
the Four Courts.”

Sometimes, in the case of a parent complaining of a daughter’s or son’s
disobedience, he would relent a little and say: “See if ye can bring him
around here. Tell him that the captain waants to see him. Then if he
comes I’ll see what I can do fer ye. Maybe I can scare him a bit.”

Let us say they came, a shabby, overworked mother or father leading a
recalcitrant boy or girl. King would assume a most ferocious air and
after listening to the complaint of the parent as if it were all news to
him would demand: “What’s ailin’ ye? Why can’t ye stay in nights? What’s
the matter with ye that ye can’t obey yer mother? Don’t ye know it’s
agin the laaw fer a minor to be stayin’ out aafter ten at night? Ye
don’t? Well, it is, an’ I’m tellin’ ye now. D’ye waant me t’lock ye up?
Is that what ye’re looking fer? There’s a lot av good iron cells back
there waitin’ fer ye if ye caan’t behave yerself. What’re ye goin’ t’do
about it?”

Possibly the one in error would relent a little and begin arguing with
the parent, charging unfairness, cruelty and the like.

“Here now, don’t ye be taalkin’ to yer mother like that! Ye’re not old
enough to be doin’ that. An’ what’s more, don’t let me ketch ye out on
the streets er her complainin’ to me again. If ye do I’ll send one av me
men around to bring ye in. This is the last now. D’ye waant to spend a
few nights in a cell? Well, then! Now be gettin’ out av here an’ don’t
let me hear any more about ye. Not a word. I’ve had enough now. Out with
ye!”

And he would glower and grow red and pop-eyed and fairly roar, shoving
them tempestuously out—only, after the victim had gone, he would lean
back in his chair and wipe his forehead and sigh: “’Tis tough, the
bringin’ up av childern, hereabouts especially. Ye can’t be blamin’ them
fer waantin’ to be out on the streets, an’ yet ye can’t let ’em out
aither, exactly. It’s hard to tell what to do with ’em. I’ve been
taalkin’ like that fer years now to one an’ another. ’Tis all the good
it does. Ye can’t do much fer ’em hereabouts.”

It was during this period, this summer time and fall, that I came in
contact with some of the most interesting characters, newspaper men
especially, flotsam and jetsam who drifted in here from other newspaper
centers and then drifted out again, newspaper men so intelligent and
definite in some respects that they seemed worthy of any position or
station in life and yet so indifferent and errant or so poorly placed in
spite of their efforts and capacities as to cause me to despair for the
reward of merit anywhere—intellectual merit, I mean. For some of these
men while fascinating were the rankest kind of failures, drunkards, drug
fiends, hypochondriacs. Many of them had stayed too long in the
profession, which is a young man’s game at best, and others had wasted
their opportunities dreaming of a chance fortune no doubt and then had
taken to drink or drugs. Still others, young men like myself, drifters
and uncertain as to their future, were just finding out how unprofitable
the newspaper game was and in consequence were cynical, waspish and
moody.

I am not familiar with many professions and so cannot say whether any of
the others abound in this same wealth of eccentric capacity and
understanding, or offer as little reward. Certainly all the newspaper
offices I have ever known sparkled with these exceptional men, few of
whom ever seemed to do very well, and no paper I ever worked on paid
wages anywhere near equal to the services rendered or the hours exacted.
It was always a hard, driving game, with the ash-heap as the reward for
the least weakening of energy or ability; and at the same time these
newspapers were constantly spouting editorially about kindness, justice,
charity, a full reward for labor, and were getting up fresh-air funds
and so on for those not half as deserving as their employees, but—and
this is the point—likely to bring them increased circulation. In the
short while I was in the newspaper profession I met many men who seemed
to be thoroughly sound intellectually, quite free, for the most part,
from the narrow, cramping conventions of their day, and yet they never
seemed to get on very well.

I remember one man in particular, Clark I think his name was, who
arrived on the scene just about this time and who fascinated me. He was
so able and sure of touch mentally and from an editorial point of view,
and yet financially and in every material way he was such a failure. He
came from Kansas City or Omaha while I was on the _Republic_ and had
worked in many, many places before that. He was a stocky, dark, clerkly
figure, with something of the manager or owner or leader about him, a
most shrewd and capable-looking person. And when he first came to the
_Republic_ he seemed destined to rise rapidly and never to want for
anything, so much self-control and force did he appear to have. He was a
hard worker, quiet, unostentatious, and once I had gained his
confidence, he gradually revealed a tale of past position and comfort
which, verified as it was by Wandell and Williams, was startling when
contrasted with his present position. Although he was not much over
forty he had been editor or managing editor of several important papers
in the West but had lost them through some primary disaster which had
caused him to take to drink—his wife’s unfaithfulness, I believe—and his
inability in recent years to stay sober for more than three months at a
stretch. In some other city he had been an important factor in politics.
Here he was, still clean and spruce apparently (when I first saw him, at
any rate), going about his work with a great deal of energy, writing the
most satisfactory newspaper stories; and then, once two or three months
of such labor had gone by, disappearing. When I inquired of Williams and
Wandell as to his whereabouts the former stared at me with his one eye
and smiled, then lifted his fingers in the shape of a glass to his
mouth. Wandell merely remarked: “Drink, I think. He may show up and he
may not. He had a few weeks’ wages when he left.”

I did not hear anything more of him for some weeks, when suddenly one
day, in that wretched section of St. Louis beloved of Dick and Peter as
a source of literary material, I was halted by a figure which I assumed
to be one of the lowest of the low. A short, matted, dirty black beard
concealed a face that bore no resemblance to Clark. A hat that looked as
though it might have been lifted out of an ash-barrel was pulled
slouchily and defiantly over long uncombed black hair. His face was
filthy, as were his clothes and shoes, slimy even. An old brown coat
(how come by, I wonder?) was marked by a greenish slime across the back
and shoulders, slime that could only have come from a gutter.

“Don’t you know me, Dreiser?” he queried in a deep, rasping voice, a
voice so rusty that it sounded as though it had not been used for years
“—Clark, Clark of the _Republic_. You know me——” and then when I stared
in amazement he added shrewdly: “I’ve been sick and in a hospital. You
haven’t a dollar about you, have you? I have to rest a little and get
myself in shape again before I can go to work.”

“Well, of all things!” I exclaimed in amazement, and then: “I’ll be
damned!” I could not help laughing: he looked so queer, impossible
almost. A stage tramp could scarcely have done better. I gave him the
dollar. “What in the world are you doing—drinking?” and then, overawed
by the memory of his past efficiency and force I could not go on. It was
too astonishing.

“Yes, I’ve been drinking,” he admitted, a little defiantly, I thought,
“but I’ve been sick too, just getting out now. I got pneumonia there in
the summer and couldn’t work. I’ll be all right after a while. What’s
news at the _Republic_?”

“Nothing.”

He mumbled something about having played in bad luck, that he would soon
be all right again, then ambled up the wretched rickety street and
disappeared.

I hustled out of that vicinity as fast as I could. I was so startled and
upset by this that I hurried back to the lobby of the Southern Hotel (my
favorite cure for all despondent days), where all was brisk,
comfortable, gay. Here I purchased a newspaper and sat down in a
rocking-chair. Here at least was no sign of poverty or want. In order to
be rid of that sense of failure and degradation which had crept over me
I took a drink or two myself. That any one as capable as Clark could
fall so low in so short a time was quite beyond me. The still strongly
puritan and moralistic streak in me was shocked beyond measure, and for
days I could do little but contrast the figure of the man I had seen
about the _Republic_ office with that I had met in that street of
degraded gin-mills and tumbledown tenements. Could people really vary so
greatly and in so short a time? What must be the nature of their minds
if they could do that? Was mine like that? Would it become so? For days
thereafter I was wandering about in spirit with this man from gin-mill
to gin-mill and lodging-house to lodging-house, seeing him drink at
scummy bars and lying down at night on a straw pallet in some wretched
hole.

And then there was Rodenberger, strange, amazing Rodenberger, poet,
editorial writer and what not, who when I first met him had a little
weekly editorial paper for which he raised the money somehow (I have
forgotten its name) and in which he poured forth his views on life and
art and nature in no uncertain terms. How he could write! (He was
connected with some drug company, by birth or marriage, which may have
helped to sustain him. I never knew anything definite concerning his
private life.) As I view him now, Rodenberger was a man in whom
imagination and logic existed in such a confusing, contesting way as to
augur fatalism and (from a worldly or material point of view) failure.
He was constantly varying between a state of extreme sobriety and
Vigorous mental energy, and debauches which lasted for weeks and which
included drink, houses of prostitution, morphine, and I know not what
else.

One sunny summer morning in July or August, I found him standing at the
corner of Sixth and Chestnut outside the LaClede drugstore quite
stupefied with drink or something.

“Hello, Rody,” I called when I saw him. “What’s ailing you? You’re not
drunk again, are you?”

“Drunk,” he replied with a slight sardonic motion of the hand and an
equally faint curl of the lip, “and what’s more, I’m glad of it. I don’t
have to think about myself, or St. Louis, or you, when I’m drunk. And
what’s more,” and here he interjected another slight motion of the hand
and hiccoughed, “I’m taking dope, and I’m glad of that. I got all the
dope I want now, right here in my little old vest pocket, and I’m going
to take all I want of it,” and he tapped the pocket significantly. Then,
in a boasting, contentious spirit, he drew forth a white pillbox and
slowly opened it and revealed to my somewhat astonished gaze some thirty
or forty small while pills, two or three of which he proceeded to lift
toward his mouth.

In my astonishment and sympathy and horror I decided to save him if I
could, so I struck his hand a smart blow, knocking the pills all over
the sidewalk. Without a word of complaint save a feeble “Zat so?” he
dropped to his hands and knees and began crawling here and there after
them as fast as he could, picking them up and putting them in his mouth,
while I, equally determined, began jumping here and there and crushing
them under my heels.

“Rody, for God’s sake! Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? Get up!”

“I’ll show you!” he cried determinedly if somewhat recklessly. “I’ll eat
’em all! I’ll eat ’em all! G—— D—— you!” and he swallowed all that he
had thus far been able to collect.

I saw him dead before me in no time at all, or thought I did.

“Here, Johnson,” I called to another of our friends who came up just
then, “help me with Rody, will you? He’s drunk, and he’s got a box of
morphine pills and he’s trying to take them. I knocked them out of his
hand and now he’s eaten a lot of them.”

“Here, Rody,” he said, pulling him to his feet and holding him against
the wall, “stop this! What the hell’s the matter with you?” and then he
turned to me: “Maybe they’re not morphine. Why don’t you ask the
druggist? If they are we’d better be getting him to the hospital.”

“They’re morphine all right,” gurgled the victim. “Dont-cha worry—I know
morphine all right, and I’ll eat ’em all,” and he began struggling with
Johnson.

At the latter’s suggestion I hurried into the drugstore, the proprietor
and clerk of which were friends to all of us, and inquired. They assured
me that they were morphine and when I told them that Rodenberger had
swallowed about a dozen they insisted that we bring him in and then call
an ambulance, while they prepared an emetic of some kind. It happened
that the head physician of the St. Louis City Hospital, Dr. Heinie
Marks, was also a friend of all newspaper men (what free advertising we
used to give him!), and to him I now turned for aid, calling him on the
telephone.

“Bring him out! Bring him out!” he said. Then: “Wait; I’ll send the
wagon.”

By this time Johnson, with the aid of the clerk and the druggist, had
brought Rodenberger inside and caused him to drink a quantity of
something, whereupon we gazed upon him for signs of his approaching
demise. By now he was very pale and limp and seemed momentarily to grow
more so. To our intense relief, however, the city ambulance soon came
and a smart young interne in white took charge. Then we saw Rodenberger
hauled away, to be pumped out later and detained for days. I was told
afterward by the doctor that he had taken enough of the pills to end him
had he not been thoroughly pumped out and treated. Yet within a week or
so he was once more up and around, fate, in the shape of myself and
Johnson, having intervened. And many a time thereafter he turned up at
this selfsame corner as sound and smiling as ever.

Once, when I ventured to reproach him for this and other follies, he
merely said:

“All in the day’s wash, my boy, all in the day’s wash. If I was so
determined to go you should have let me alone. Heaven only knows what
trouble you have stored up for me now by keeping me here when I wanted
to go. That may have been a divine call! But—Kismet! Allah is Allah!
Let’s go and have a drink!” And we adjourned to Phil Hackett’s bar,
where we were soon surrounded by fellow-bibbers who spent most of their
time looking out through the cool green lattices of that rest room upon
the hot street outside.

I may add that Rodenberger’s end was not such as might be expected by
the moralists. Ten years later he had completely reformed his habits and
entered the railroad business, having attained to a considerable
position in one of the principal roads running out of St. Louis.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XXXVI


FOR years past during the summer months the _Republic_ had been
conducting a summer charity of some kind, a fresh-air fund, in support
of which it attempted every summer to invent and foster some quick
money-raising scheme. This year it had taken the form of that musty old
chestnut, a baseball game, to be played between two local fraternities,
the fattest men of one called the Owls and the leanest of another known
as the Elks. The hope of the _Republic_ was to work up interest in this
startling novelty by a humorous handling of it so as to draw a large
crowd to the baseball grounds. Before I had even heard of it this task
had been assigned to two or three others, a new man each day, in the
hope of extracting fresh bits of humor, but so far with but indifferent
results.

One day, then, I was handed a clipping concerning this proposed game
that had been written the preceding day by another member of the staff
and which was headed “Blood on the Moon.” It purported to narrate the
preliminary mutterings and grumblings of those who were to take part in
the contest. It was not so much an amusing picture as a news item, and I
did not think very much of it; but since I had been warned by Williams
that I was about to be called upon to produce the next day’s burst, and
that it must be humorous, I was by no means inclined to judge it too
harshly.... The efforts of one’s predecessor always appear more forceful
as one’s own threaten to prove inadequate. A little later Wandell
proceeded to outline to me most of the conditions which surrounded this
contest. “See if you can’t get some fun into it. You must do it. Some
one has to. I depend on you for this. Make us laugh,” and he smiled a
dry, almost frosty smile. “Laugh!” I thought. “Good Lord, how am I to
make anybody laugh? I never wrote anything funny in my life!”

Nevertheless, being put to it for this afternoon (he had given me no
other assignment, fancying no doubt that I might have a hard time with
this), and being the soul of duty, I went to my desk to think it over.
Not an idea came to me. It seemed to me that nothing could be duller
than this, a baseball game between fat and lean men; yet if I didn’t
write something it would be a black mark against me and if I did and it
proved a piece of trash I should sink equally low in the estimation of
my superior. I took my pencil and began scribbling a possible
introduction, wondering how one achieved humor when one had it not.
After writing aimlessly for a half-hour or so I finally re-examined the
texts of my predecessors of previous days and then sought to take the
same tack. Only, instead of describing the aspirations and oppositions
of the two rival organizations in general terms, I assumed a specific
interest and plotting on the part of certain of their chief officers,
who even now, as I proceeded to assert and with names and places given
in different parts of the city, were spending days and nights devising
ways and means of outwitting the enemy. Thoughts of rubber baseball
bats, baskets and nets in which flies might be caught, secret electric
wiring under the diamond between the bases to put “pep” into the fat
runners, seemed to have some faint trace of humor in them, and these I
now introduced as being feverishly worked out in various secret places
in order that the great game might not be lost. As I wrote, building up
purely imaginary characteristics for each one involved (I did not know
any of them), I myself began to grow interested and amused. It all
seemed so ridiculous, such trash, and yet the worse I made it the better
it seemed. At last I finished it, but upon re-reading it I was disturbed
by the coarse horse-play of it all. “This will never get by,” I thought.
“Wandell will think it’s rotten.” But having by now come to a rather
friendly understanding with Williams, I decided to take it over and ask
him so that in case I had failed I might try again.

Wearily he eyed me with his one eye, for already he had been editing
this for days, then leaned back in his chair and began to read it over.
At first he did not seem to be much interested, but after the first
paragraph, which he examined with a blank expression, he smiled and
finally chortled: “This is pretty good, yes. You needn’t worry about it;
I think it’ll do. Leave it with me.” Then he began to edit it. Later in
the afternoon when Wandell had come in to give out the evening
assignments I saw Williams gather it up and go in to him. After a time
he came out smiling, and in a little While Wandell called me in.

“Not bad, not bad,” he said, tapping the manuscript lightly. “You’ve got
the right idea, I think. I’ll let you do that for a while afternoons
until we get up on it. You needn’t do anything else—just that, if you do
it well enough.”

I was pleased, for judging by the time it had taken to do this (not more
than two hours) I should have most of my afternoons to myself. I saw
visions of a late breakfast, idling in my room, walks after I had done
with my work and before I returned to the office. Curiously enough, this
trivial thing, undertaken at first in great doubt and with no sense of
ability and with no real equipment for it, nevertheless proved for me
the most fortunate thing I had thus far done. It was not so much that it
was brilliant, or even especially well done, as that what I did fell in
with the idle summer mood of the city or with the contesting
organizations and the readers of the _Republic_. Congratulatory letters
began to arrive. Pleased individuals whose names had been humorously
mentioned began to call up the city editor, or the managing editor, or
even the editor-in-chief, and voice their approval. In a trice and
almost before I knew it, I was a personage, especially in newspaper
circles.

“We’ve got the stuff now, all right,” Wandell cackled most violently one
evening, at the same time slapping me genially on the shoulder. “This’ll
do it, I’m sure. A few weeks, and we’ll get a big crowd and a lot of
publicity. Just you stick to the way you’re doing this now. Don’t change
your style. We’ve got ’em coming now.”

I was really amazed.

And to add to it, Wandell’s manner toward me changed. Hitherto, despite
his but poorly concealed efforts, he had been distant, brusque,
dictatorial, superior. Now of a sudden he was softer, more confidential.

“I have a friend up the street here—Frank Hewe, an awfully nice fellow.
He’s the second assistant of this or that or the other such company. In
one of these comic blurbs of yours don’t you think you could ring him in
in some way? He’s an Elk and I’m sure the mention would tickle him to
death.”

I saw the point of Mr. Wandell’s good nature. He was handing round some
favors on his own account.

But since it was easy for me to do it and could not injure the text in
any way, and seemed to popularize the paper and myself immensely, I was
glad to do it. Each evening, when at six or seven I chose to amble in,
having spent the afternoon at my room or elsewhere idling, my text all
done in an hour as a rule, my small chief would beam on me most
cordially.

“Whatcha got there? Another rib-tickler? Let’s see. Well, go get your
dinner, and if you don’t want to come back go and see a show. There’s
not much doing tonight anyhow, and I’d like to keep you fresh. Don’t
stay up too late, and turn me in another good one tomorrow.”

So it went.

In a trice and as if by magic I was lifted into an entirely different
realm. The ease of those hours! Citizens of local distinction wanted to
meet me. I was asked by Wandell one afternoon to come to the Southern
bar in order that Colonel So-and-So, the head of this, that or the other
thing, as well as some others, might meet me. I was told that this, that
and the other person here thought I must be clever, a fool, or a genius.
I was invited to a midnight smoker at some country club. The local
newspaper men who gathered at the LaClede daily all knew, and finding me
in high favor with Phil Hackett, the lessee of the hotel bar whose name
I had mentioned once, now laughed with me and drank at my expense—or
rather at that of the proprietor, for I was grandly told by him that I
“could pay for no drinks there,” which kept me often from going there at
all. As the days went on I was assured that owing to my efforts the game
was certain to be a big success, that it was the most successful stunt
the _Republic_ had ever pulled and that it would net the fund several
thousand dollars.

For four or five weeks then it seemed to me as though I were walking on
air. Life was so different, so pleasant these hot, bright days, with
everybody pleased with me and my name as a clever man—a humorist!—being
bandied about. Some of my new admirers were so pleased with me that they
asked me to come to their homes to see them. I was becoming a personage.
Hackett of the LaClede having asked me casually one day where I lived, I
was surprised that night in my room by a large wicker hamper containing
champagne, whiskey and cordials. I transferred it to the office of the
_Republic_ for the reportorial staff, with my compliments.

My handling of the fat-lean baseball game having established me as a
feature writer of some ability, the _Republic_ decided to give me
another feature assignment. There had been in progress a voting contest
which embraced the whole State and which was to decide which of many
hundreds of school-teachers, the favorites out of how many districts in
the State I cannot now recall, were to be sent to Chicago to see the
World’s Fair for two or more weeks at the _Republic’s_ expense. In
addition, a reporter or traveling correspondent was to be sent with the
party to report its daily doings and that reporter’s comments were to be
made a daily news feature; and that reporter was to be myself. I was not
seeking it, had not even heard of it, but according to Wandell, who was
selecting the man for the management, I was the one most likely to give
a satisfactory picture of the life at the great Fair as well as render
the _Republic_ a service in picturing the doings of these teachers. An
agent of the business manager was also going along to look after the
practical details, and also the city superintendent of schools. I
welcomed this opportunity to see the World’s Fair, which was then in its
heyday and filling the newspapers.

“I don’t mind telling you,” Wandell observed to me a few days before the
final account of the baseball game was to be written, “that your work on
this ball game has been good. Everybody is pleased. Now, there’s a
little excursion we’re going to send up to Chicago, and I’m going to
send you along on that for a rest. Mr. ——, our business manager, will
tell you all about it. You see him about transportation and expenses.”

“When am I to go?” I asked.

“Thursday. Thursday night.”

“Then I don’t have to see the ball game?”

“Oh, that’s all right. You’ve done the important part of that. Let some
one else write it up.”

I smiled at the compliment. I went downstairs and had somebody explain
to me what it was the paper was going to do and congratulated myself.
Now I was to have a chance to visit the World’s Fair, which had not yet
opened when I left Chicago. I could look up my father, whom I had
neglected since my mother’s death, as well as such other members of the
family as were still living in Chicago; but, most important, I could go
around to the _Globe_ there and “blow” to my old confrères about my
present success. All I had to do was to go along and observe what the
girls did and how they enjoyed themselves and then write it up.

I went up the street humming and rejoicing, and finally landed in the
“art department” of my friends.

“I’m being sent to Chicago to the World’s Fair,” I said gleefully.

“Bully for you,” was the unanimous return. “Let’s hope you have a good
time.”


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XXXVII


AS the time drew near, though, the thought of being a sort of literary
chaperon to a lot of school-teachers, probably all of them homely and
uninteresting, was not as cheering as it might have been. I wondered how
I should manage to be civil and interesting to so many, how I was to
extract news out of them. Yet the attitude of the business manager and
the managing editor, as well as the editor-in-chief or publisher, Mr.
Knapp, to whom I was now introduced by my city editor, was enough to
convince me that whatever I thought of it I was plainly rising in their
esteem. Although no word was said about any increase in pay, which I
still consider the limit of beggarly, pennywise policy, these
magnificoes were most cordial, smiled and congratulated me on my work
and then turned me over to the man who had the financing of the trip in
charge. He reminded me a good deal of a banker or church elder, small,
dark, full-whiskered, solemn, affable, and assured me that he was glad
that I had been appointed, that I was the ideal man for the place, and
that he would see to it that anything I needed to make my trip pleasant
would be provided. I could scarcely believe that I was so important.

After asking me to go and see the superintendent of schools, also of the
party as guest of the _Republic_, he said he would send to me a Mr.
Dean, who would be his agent en route to look after everything—baggage,
fares, hotels, meals. The latter came and at once threw a wet blanket
over me: he was so utterly dull and commonplace. His clothes, his shoes,
his loud tie and his muddy, commonplace intellect all irritated me
beyond measure. Something he said—“Now, of course, we all want to do
everything we can to please these ladies and make them happy”—irritated
me. The usual pastoral, supervisory stuff, I thought, and I at once
decided that I did not want him to bother me in any way. “What! Did this
horrible bounder assume that he was regulating my conduct on this trip,
or that I was going out of my way to accommodate myself to him and his
theory of how the trip should be conducted, or to accept him as a social
equal? ‘We must’ indeed!—I, Theodore Dreiser, the well-known newspaper
writer of St. Louis! The effrontery! Well, he would get scant attention
from me, and the more he let me alone the better it would be for him and
all of us!”

And now Wandell also began to irritate me by attempting to give me
minute instructions as to just what was wanted and how I was to write
it, although, as I understood it, I was now working for the managing
editor who was to have the material edited in the telegraph department.
Besides, I thought that I was now entitled to a little leeway and
discretion in the choice of what I should report. The idea of making it
all advertising for the _Republic_ and myself a literary wet-nurse to a
school party was a little too much.

However, I bustled down to the train that was waiting to carry this
party of damsels to Chicago and the World’s Fair, a solid Pullman train
which left St. Louis at dusk and arrived in Chicago early the next
morning. The fifth of the Pullmans was reserved to carry the
school-teachers and their chaperons, Mr. Soldan, superintendent of
schools, Mr. Dean, the business-manager-representative, and myself. I
entered the car wondering of course what the result of such a temporary
companionship with so many girls might be. They were all popular, hence
beautiful, prize-winners, as I had heard; but my pessimistic mind had
registered a somewhat depressing conception of the ordinary
school-mistress and I did not expect much.

For once in my life I was agreeably disappointed. These were young,
buxom Missouri school-teachers and as attractive as that profession will
permit. I was no sooner seated in a gaudy car than one of the end doors
opened and there was ushered in by the porter a pretty, rosy-cheeked,
black-haired girl of perhaps twenty-four. This was a good beginning.
Immediately thereafter there came in a tall, fair girl with light brown
hair and blue eyes. Others now entered, blondes and brunettes, stout and
slender, with various intermediate grades or types. Instead of a
mounting contempt I suddenly began to suffer from a sickening sense of
inability to hold my own in the face of so many pretty girls. What could
I do with twenty girls? How write about them? Maybe the
business-manager-representative or the superintendent would not come on
this train and I should be left to introduce these girls to each other!
God! I should have to find out their names, and I had not thought to
inquire at the office!

Fortunately for my peace of mind a large, rather showily dressed man
with big soft ruddy hands decorated with several rings and a full oval
face tinted with health, now entered by the front door and beamed
cheerfully upon all.

“Ah, here we are now,” he began with the impressive air of one in
authority, going up to the first maiden he saw. “I see you have arrived
safely, Miss—ah—C——. I’m glad to see you again. How are you?” We went on
to another: “And here is Miss W——! Well, I am glad. I read in the
_Republic_ that you had won.”

I realized that this was the Professor Soldan so earnestly recommended
to me, the superintendent of schools and one upon whom I was to comment.
I rather liked him.

An engine went puffing and clanging by on a neighboring track. I gazed
out of the window. It seemed essential for me to begin doing something
but I did not know how to begin. Suddenly the large jeweled hand was
laid on my shoulder and the professor stood over me. “This must be Mr.
Dreiser, of the _Republic_. Your business manager, Mr. ——, phoned me
this morning that you were coming. You must let me introduce you to all
these young ladies. We want to get the formalities over and be on easy
terms.”

I bowed heavily for I felt as though I were turning to stone. The
prettiness and sparkle of these girls all chatting and laughing had
fairly done for me. I followed the professor as one marches to the
gallows and he began at one end of the car and introduced me to one girl
after another as though it were a state affair of some kind. I felt like
a boob. I was flustered and yet delighted by his geniality and the fact
that he was helping me over a very ticklish situation. I envied him his
case and self-possession. He soon betook himself elsewhere, leaving me
to converse as best I might with a pretty black-haired Irish girl whose
eyes made me wish to be agreeable. And now, idiot, I struggled
desperately for bright things to say. How did one entertain a pretty
girl, anyhow? The girl came to my rescue by commenting on the nature of
the contest and the difficulties she had had. She hadn’t thought she
would win at all. Some others joined in, and before I knew it the train
was out of the station and on its way. The porter was closing the
windows for the long tunnel, the girls were sinking into comfortable
attitudes, and there was a general air of relaxation and good nature.
Before East St. Louis was reached a general conversation was in
progress, and by the time the train was a half-hour out a party of
familiars had gathered in the little bridal chamber, which was at the
rear of the car, laughing and gesticulating. But I was not of it, nor
was the girl with whom I was chatting.

“Why don’t you come back here, Myra?” called a voice.

“Having lots of fun up there?” called another.

“Do come back, for goodness’ sake! Don’t try to monopolize one whole
man.”

I felt my legs going from under me. Could this be true? Must I now go
back there and try to face six or seven? Stumblingly I followed Myra,
and at the door stopped and looked in. It was full of pretty girls, my
partner of the moment before now chattering lightly among them. “I’m
gone,” I thought. “It’s all off. Now for the grand collapse and silence!
Which way shall I turn? To whom?”

“There’s room for one more here,” said a Juney blonde, making a place
for me.

I could not refuse this challenge. “I’m the one,” I said weakly, and
sank heavily beside her. She looked at me encouragingly, as did the
others, and at a vast expense of energy and will power I managed to
achieve a smile. It was pathetic.

“Isn’t train-riding just glorious?” exclaimed one of these bright-faced
imps exuberantly. “I bet I haven’t been on a train twice before in all
my life, and just look at me! I do it all right, don’t I? I’d just love
to travel. I wish I could travel all the time.”

“Oh, don’t you, though!” echoed the girl who was sitting beside me and
whom up to now I had scarcely noticed. “Do you think she looks so nice
riding?”

I cannot recall what I answered. It may have been witty—if so it was an
accident.

“What do you call the proper surroundings?” put in a new voice in answer
to something that was said, which same drew my attention to limpid blue
eyes, a Cupid’s bow mouth and a wealth of corn-colored hair.

“These,” I finally achieved gallantly, gazing about the compartment and
at my companions. A burst of applause followed. I was coming to. Yet I
was still bewildered by the bouquet of faces about me. Already the idea
of the dreary school-teachers had been dissipated: these were
prize-winners. Look where I would I seemed to see a new type of
prettiness confronting me. It was like being in the toils of those
nymphs in the Ring of the Nibelungen, yet I had no desire to escape,
wishing to stay now and see how I could “make out” as a Lothario. Indeed
at this I worked hard. I did my best to gaze gayly and captivatingly
into pretty eyes of various colors. They all gazed amusedly back. I was
almost the only man; they were out for a lark. What would you?

“If I had my wishes now I’d wish for just one thing,” I volunteered,
expecting to arouse curiosity.

“Which one?” asked the girl with the brown eyes and piquant little face
who wished to travel forever. Her look was significant.

“This one,” I said, running my finger around in a circle to include them
all and yet stopping at none.

“We’re not won yet, though,” said the girl smirkily.

“Couldn’t you be?” I asked smartly.

“Not all at once, anyhow. Could we?” she asked, speaking for the crowd.

I found myself poor at repartee. “It will seem all at once, though, when
it happens, won’t it?” I finally managed to return. “Isn’t it always ‘so
sudden’?” I was surprising myself.

“Aren’t you smart!” said the blue-eyed girl beside me.

“Oh, that’s clever, isn’t it?” said the girl with the corn-colored hair.

I gazed in her direction. Beside her sat a maiden whom I had but dimly
noticed. She was in white, with a mass of sunny red hair. Her eyes were
almond-shaped, liquid and blue-gray. Her nose was straight and fine, her
lips sweetly curved. She seemed bashful and retiring. At her bosom was a
bouquet of pink roses, but one had come loose.

“Oh, your flowers!” I exclaimed.

“Let me give you one,” she replied, laughing. I had not heard her voice
before and I liked it.

“Certainly,” I said. Then to the others: “You see, I’ll take anything I
can get.” She drew a rose from her bosom and held it out toward me.
“Won’t you put it on?” I asked smartly.

She leaned over and began to fasten it. She worked a moment and then
looked at me, making, as I thought, a sheep’s eye at me.

“You may have my place,” said the girl next me, feigning to help her,
and she took it.

The conversation waxed even freer after this, although for me I felt
that it had now taken a definite turn.... I was talking for her benefit.
We were still in the midst of this when the conductor passed through and
after him Mr. Dean, middle-aged, dusty, assured, advisory.

“These are the people,” he said. “They are all in one party.” He called
me aside and we sat down, he explaining cheerfully and volubly the
trouble he was having keeping everything in order. I could have murdered
him.

“I’m looking out for the baggage and the hotel bills and all,” he
insisted. “In the morning we’ll be met by a tally-ho and ride out to the
hotel.”

I was thinking of my splendid bevy of girls and the delightful time I
had been having.

“Well, that’ll be fine, won’t it?” I said wearily. “Is that all?”

“Oh, we have it all planned out,” he went on. “It’s going to be a fine
trip.”

I did my best to show that I had no desire to talk, but still he kept
on. He wanted to meet the teachers and I had to introduce him.
Fortunately he became interested in one small group and I sidled
away—only to find my original group considerably reduced. Some had gone
to the dressingroom, others were arranging their parcels about their
unmade berths. The porter came in and began to make them up. I looked
ruefully about me.

“Well, our little group has broken up,” I said at last to the girl of my
choice as I came up to where she was sitting.

“Yes. It’s getting late. But I’m not sleepy yet.”

We dropped into an easy conversation, and I learned that she was from
Missouri and taught in a little town not far from St. Louis. She
explained to me how she had come to win, and I told her how ignorant I
had been of the whole affair up to four days ago. She said that friends
had bought hundreds of _Republics_ in order to get the coupons. It
seemed a fine thing to me for a girl to be so popular.

“You’ve never been to Chicago, then?” I asked.

“Oh no. I’ve never been anywhere really. I’m just a simple country girl,
you know. I’ve always wanted to go, though.”

She fascinated me. She seemed so direct, truthful, sympathetic.

“You’ll enjoy it,” I said. “It’s worth seeing. I was in Chicago when the
Fair was being built. My home is there.”

“Then you’ll stay with your home-folks, won’t you?” she asked, using a
word for family to which I was not accustomed. It touched a chord of
sympathy. I was not very much in touch with my family any more but the
way she seemed to look on hers made me wish that I were.

“Well, not exactly. They live over on the west side. I’ll go to see
them, though.”

I was thinking that now I had her out of that sparkling group she seemed
more agreeable than before, much more interesting, more subdued and
homelike.

She arose to leave me. “I want to get some of my things before the
porter puts them away,” she explained.

I stepped out of her way. She tripped up the aisle and I looked after
her, fascinated. Of a sudden she seemed quite the most interesting of
all those here, simple, pretty, vigorous and with a kind of tact and
grace that was impressive. Also I felt an intense something about her
that was concealed by an air of supreme innocence and maidenly reserve.
I went out to the smokingroom, where I sat alone looking out of the
window.

“What a delightful girl,” I thought, with a feeling of intense
satisfaction. “And I have the certainty of seeing her again in the
morning!”

CHAPTER XXXVIII

The next morning I was awake early, stirred by the thoughts of Chicago,
the Fair, Miss W—— (my favorite), as well as the group of attractive
creatures who now formed a sort of background for her. One of the
characteristics of my very youthful temperament at that time was the
power to invest every place I had ever left with a romance and
strangeness such as might have attached to something abandoned, say, a
thousand or two years before and which I was now revisiting for the
first time to find it nearly all done over. So it was now in my attitude
toward Chicago. I had been away for only eight or nine months, and still
I expected—what did I not expect?—the whole skyline and landscape to be
done over, or all that I had known done away with. Going into Chicago I
studied every street and crossing and house and car. How sad to think I
had ever had to leave it, to leave Alice, my home, my father, all my
relatives and old friends! Where was E——, A——, T——, my father? At
thought of the latter I was deeply moved, for had I not left him about a
year before and without very much ceremony at the time I had chosen to
follow the fortunes of my sister C——? Now that I looked back on it all
from the vantage point of a year’s work I was much chastened and began
to think how snippy and unkind I had been. Poor, tottering, broken soul,
I thought. I could see him then as he really was, a warm, generous and
yet bigoted and ignorant soul, led captive in his childhood to a
brainless theory and having no power within himself to break that chain,
and now wandering distrait and forlorn amid a storm of difficulties:
age, the death of his wife, the flight of his children, doubt as to
their salvation, poverty, a declining health.

I can see him now, a thin grasshopper of a man, brooding wearily with
those black-brown Teutonic eyes of his, as sad as failure itself. What
thoughts! What moods! He was very much like one of those old men whom
Rembrandt has portrayed, wrinkled, sallow, leathery. My father’s
peculiarly German hair and beard were always carefully combed and
brushed, the hair back over his forehead like Nietzsche’s, the beard
resting reddishly on his chest. His clothes were always loose and
ill-fitting, being bought for durability, not style, or made over from
abandoned clothes of some one—my brother Paul or my sister M——’s
husband. He always wore an old and very carefully preserved black derby
hat, very wide of brim and out of style, which he pulled low over his
deep-set weary eyes. I always wondered where and when he had bought it.
On this trip I offered to buy him a new one, but he preferred to use the
money for a mass for the repose of my good mother’s soul! Under his arm
or in one of his capacious pockets was always a Catholic prayerbook from
which he read prayers as familiar to him as his own hands, yet from the
mumbling repetition of which he extracted some comfort, as does the
Hindu from meditating upon space or time. In health he was always
fluttering to one or another of a score of favorite Catholic churches,
each as commonplace as the other, and there, before some trashy plaster
image of some saint or virgin as dead or helpless as his own past,
making supplication for what?—peace in death, the reconversion and right
conduct of his children, the salvation of his own and my mother’s soul?
Debts were his great misery, as I had always known. If one died and left
unpaid an old bill of some kind one had to stay in purgatory so much
longer!

Riding into Chicago this morning I speculated as to the thinness of his
hands as I had known them, the tremulousness of his inquiries, the
appeal in his sad resigned eyes, whence all power to compel or convince
had long since gone. In the vast cosmic flight of force, flowing from
what heart we know not but in which as little corks our suns and planets
float, it is possible that there may be some care, an equation, a
balancing of the scales of suffering and pleasure. I hope so. If not I
know not the reason for tears or those emotions with which so many of us
salve the memory of seemingly immedicable ills. If immedicable, why cry?

I sought Miss W——, who was up before me and sitting beside her section
window. I was about to go and talk with her when my attention was
claimed by other girls. This bevy could not very well afford to see the
attention of the only man on board so easily monopolized. There were so
many pretty faces among them that I wavered. I talked idly among them,
interested to see what overtures and how much of an impression I might
make. My natural love of womankind made them all inviting.

When the train drew into Chicago we were met by a tally-ho, which the
obliging Mr. Dean had been kind enough to announce to each and every one
of us as the train stopped. The idea of riding to the World’s Fair in
such a thing and with this somewhat conspicuous party of school-teachers
went very much against the grain. Being very conscious of my personal
dignity in the presence of others and knowing the American and
middle-West attitude toward all these new and persistently derided toys
and pleasures of the effete East and England, I was inclined to look
upon this one as out of place in Chicago. Besides, a canvas strip on the
coach advertising the nature of this expedition infuriated me and seemed
spiritually involved with the character of Mr. Dean. That bounder had
done this, I was sure. I wondered whether the sophisticated and
well-groomed superintendent of schools would lend himself to any such
thing when plainly it was to be written up in the _Republic_, but since
he did not seem to mind it I was mollified; in fact, he took it all with
a charming gayety and grace which eventually succeeded in putting my own
silly provincialism and pride to rout. He sat up in front with me and
the driver discussing philosophy, education, the Fair, a dozen things,
during which I made a great pretense at wise deductions and a wider
reading than I had ever had.

Once clear of the depot and turning into Adams Street, we were off
behind six good horses through as interesting a business section as one
might wish to see, its high buildings (the earliest and most numerous in
America) and its mass of congested traffic making a brisk summer morning
scene. I was reëngaged by Michigan Avenue, that splendid boulevard with
its brief vista of the lake, which was whipped to cotton-tops this
bright morning by a fresh wind, and then the long residence-lined avenue
to the south with its wealth of new and pretentious homes, its smart
paving and lighting, its crush of pleasure traffic hurrying townward or
to the Fair. Within an hour we were assigned rooms in a comfortable
hotel near the Fair grounds, one of those hastily and yet fairly well
constructed buildings which later were changed into flats or apartments.
One wall of this hotel, as I now discovered, the side on which my room
was, faced a portion of the Fair grounds, and from my windows I could
see some of its classic façades, porticoes, roofs, domes, lagoons. All
at once and out of nothing in this dingy city of six or seven hundred
thousand which but a few years before had been a wilderness of wet grass
and mud flats, and by this lake which but a hundred years before was a
lone silent waste, had now been reared this vast and harmonious
collection of perfectly constructed and snowy buildings, containing in
their delightful interiors the artistic, mechanical and scientific
achievements of the world. Greece, Italy, India, Egypt, Japan, Germany,
South America, the West and East Indies, the Arctics—all represented! I
have often thought since how those pessimists who up to that time had
imagined that nothing of any artistic or scientific import could
possibly be brought to fruition in America, especially in the middle
West, must have opened their eyes as I did mine at the sight of this
realized dream of beauty, this splendid picture of the world’s own hope
for itself. I have long marveled at it and do now as I recall it, its
splendid Court of Honor, with its monumental stateliness and simple
grandeur; the peristyle with its amazing grace of columns and sculptured
figures; the great central arch with its triumphal quadriga; the dome of
the Administration Building with its daring nudes; the splendid
groupings on the Agricultural Building, as well as those on the
Manufacturers’ and Women’s buildings. It was not as if many minds had
labored toward this great end, or as if the great raw city which did not
quite understand itself as yet had endeavored to make a great show, but
rather as though some brooding spirit of beauty, inherent possibly in
some directing over-soul, had waved a magic wand quite as might have
Prospero in _The Tempest_ or Queen Mab in _A Midsummer Night’s Dream_,
and lo, this fairyland.

In the morning when I came down from my room I fell in with Miss W—— in
the diningroom and was thrilled by the contact. She was so gay,
good-natured, smiling, unaffected. And with her now was a younger sister
of whom I had not heard and who had come to Chicago by a different route
to join her. I was promptly introduced, and we sat down at the same
table. It was not long before we were joined by the others, and then I
could see by the exchange of glances that it was presumed that I had
fallen a victim to this charmer of the night before. But already the
personality of the younger sister was appealing to me quite as much as
the elder. She was so radiant of humor, freckled, plump, laughing and
with such an easy and natural mode of address. Somehow she struck me as
knowing more of life than her sister, being more sophisticated and yet
quite as innocent.

After breakfast the company broke up into groups of two and three. Each
had plans for the day and began talking them over.

We started off finally for the Fair gate and on the way I had an
opportunity to study some of the other members of the party and make up
my mind as to whether I really preferred her above all. Despite my
leaning toward Miss W—— I now discovered that there was a number whose
charms, if not superior to those of Miss W——, were greater than I had
imagined, while some of those who had attracted me the night before were
being modified by little traits of character or mannerism which I did
not like. Among them was one rosy black-haired Irish girl whose solid
beauty attracted me very much. She was young and dark and robust, with
the air of a hoyden. I looked at her, quite taken by her snapping black
eyes, but nothing came of it for the moment: we were all becoming
interested in the Fair.

Together, then, we drifted for an hour or more in this world of glorious
sights, an hour or more of dreaming over the arches, the reflections in
the water, the statues, the shadowy throngs by the steps of the lagoons
moving like figures in a dream. Was it real? I sometimes wonder, for it
is all gone. Gone the summer days and nights, the air, the color, the
form, the mood. In its place is a green park by a lake, still beautiful
but bereft, a city that grows and grows, ever larger, but harder,
colder, grayer.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XXXIX


POSSIBLY it was the brightness and freshness of this first day, the
romance of an international fair in America, the snowy whiteness of the
buildings against the morning sun, a blue sky and a bluer lake, the
lagoons weaving in and out, achieving a lightness and an airiness wholly
at war with anything that this Western world had as yet presented, which
caused me to be swept into a dream from which I did not recover for
months. I walked away a little space with my friend of the night before,
learning more of her home and environment. As I saw her now, she seemed
more and more natural, winsome, inviting. Humor seemed a part of her,
and romance, as well as understanding and patience, a quiet and restful
and undisturbed patience. I liked her immensely. She seemed from the
first to offer me an understanding and a sympathy which I had never yet
realized in any one. She smiled at my humor, appreciated my moods.
Returning to my room late in the afternoon I was conscious of a
difficult task, what to write that was worth while, and yet so deeply
moved by it all that I could have clapped my hands for joy. I wanted to
versify or describe it—a mood which youth will understand and maturity
smile at, which causes the mind to sing, to set forth on fantastic
pilgrimages.

But if I wrote anything worth while I cannot now recall it. I was too
eager to loaf and dream and do nothing at all, almost too idle to
concentrate on what I had been called upon to do. I sent off something,
a thousand or so words of drivel or rapture, and then settled to my real
task of seeing the Fair by night and by day. Now that I was here I was
cheered by the thought that very soon, within a day or two at most, I
should be able to seek out and crow over all my old familiars, Maxwell,
Dunlap, Brady, Hutchinson, a considerable group of newspaper men, as
well as my brothers A—— and E——, who were here employed somewhere, and
my father and several sisters.

For my father, who was now seventy-two years of age, I had, all of a
sudden, as I have indicated above, the greatest sympathy. At home, up to
my seventeenth or eighteenth birthday, before I got out in the world and
began to make my own way, I had found him fussy, cranky, dosed with too
much religion; but in spite of all this and the quarrels and bickerings
which arose because of it there had always been something tender in his
views, charming, poetic and appreciative. Now I felt sorry for him. A
little while before and after my mother’s death it had seemed to me that
he had become unduly wild on the subject of the church and the
hereafter, was annoying us all with his persistent preachments
concerning duty, economy and the like, the need of living a clean,
saving, religious life. Now, after a year out in the world, with a
broadening knowledge of very different things, I saw him in an entirely
different light. While realizing that he was irritable, crotchety,
domineering, I suddenly saw him as just a broken old man whose hopes and
ambitions had come to nothing, whose religion, impossible as it was to
me, was still a comfort and a blessing to him. Here he was, alone, his
wife dead, his children scattered and not very much interested in him
any more.

Now that I was here in the city again, I decided that as soon as I could
arrange my other affairs I would go over on the west side and look him
up and bring him to see the Fair, which of course he had not seen. For I
knew that with his saving, worrying, almost penurious disposition he
would not be able to bring himself to endure the expense, even though
tickets were provided him, of visiting the Fair alone. He had had too
much trouble getting enough to live on in these latter years to permit
him to enjoy anything which cost money. I could hear him saying: “No,
no. I cannot afford it. We have too many debts.” He had not always been
so but time and many troubles had made the saving of money almost a
mania with him.

The next morning, therefore, I journeyed to the west side and finally
found him quite alone, as it chanced, the other members of the family
then living with him having gone out. I shall never forget how old he
looked after my year’s absence, how his eyelids twitched. After a
slightly quizzical and attempted hard examining glance at me his lips
twitched and tears welled to his eyes. He was so utterly done for, as he
knew, and dependent on the courtesy of his children and life. I cried
myself and rubbed his hands and his hair, then told him that I was doing
well and had come to take him to see the Fair, that I had tickets—a
passbook, no less—and that it shouldn’t cost him a penny. Naturally he
was surprised and glad to see me, so anxious to know if I still adhered
to the Catholic faith and went to confession and communion regularly. In
the old days this had been the main bone of contention between us.

“Tell me, Dorsch,” he said not two minutes after I arrived, “do you
still keep up your church duties?”

When I hesitated for a moment, uncertain what to say, he went on: “You
ought to do that, you know. If you should die in a state of mortal
sin——”

“Yes, yes,” I interrupted, making up my mind to give him peace on this
score if I never did another thing in this world, “I always go right
along, once every month or six weeks.”

“You really do that, do you?” he asked, eyeing me more in appeal than
doubt, though judging by my obstinate past he must have doubted.

“Yes,” I insisted, “sure. I always go regularly.”

“I’m glad of that,” he went on hopefully. “I worry so. I think of you
and the rest of the children so much. You’re a young man now and out in
the world, and if you neglect your religious duties——” and he paused as
if in a grave quandary. “When you’re out like that I know it’s hard to
think of the church and your duties, but you shouldn’t neglect them——”

“Oh, Lord!” I thought. “Now he’s off again! This is the same old
story—religion, religion, religion!”

“But I do go,” I insisted. “You mustn’t worry about me.”

“I know,” he said, with a sudden catch in his voice, “but I can’t help
it. You know how it is with the other children: they don’t always do
right in that respect. Paul is away on the stage; I don’t know whether
he goes to church any more. A—— and E—— are here, but they don’t come
here much—I haven’t seen them in I don’t know how long—months——”

I resolved to plead with E—— and A—— when I saw them.

He was sitting in a big armchair facing a rear window, and now he took
my hand again and held it. Soon I felt hot tears on it.

“Pop,” I said, pulling his head against me and smoothing it, “you
mustn’t cry. Things aren’t so bad as all that. The children are all
right. We’ll probably be able to do better and more for you than we’ve
ever done.”

“I know, I know,” he said after a little while, overcoming his emotion,
“but I’m getting so old, and I don’t sleep much any more—just an hour or
two. I lie there and think. In the morning I get up at four sometimes
and make my coffee. Then the days are so long.”

I cried too. The long days ... the fading interests ... Mother gone and
the family broken up....

“I know,” I said. “I haven’t acted just right—none of us have. I’ll
write you from now on when I’m away, and send you some money once in a
while. I’m going to get you a big overcoat for next winter. And now I
want you to come over with me to the Fair. I’ve tickets, and you’ll
enjoy it. I’m a press representative now, a traveling correspondent.
I’ll show you everything.”

After due persuasion he got his hat and stick and came with me. We took
a car and an elevated road, which finally landed us at the gate, and
then, for as long as his strength would endure, we wandered about
looking at the enormous buildings, the great Ferris Wheel, the caravels
_Nina_, _Pinta_ and _Santa Maria_ in which Columbus sailed to America,
the convent of La Rabida (which, because it related to the Trappists,
fascinated him), and finally the German Village on the Midway, as German
and _ordentlich_ as ever a German would wish, where we had coffee and
little German cakes with caraway seeds on them and some pot cheese with
red pepper and onions. He was so interested and amused by the vast
spectacle that he could do little save exclaim: “By crackie!” “This is
now beautiful!” or “That is now wonderful!” In the German village he
fell into a conversation with a buxom German _frau_ who had a stand
there and who hailed from some part of Germany about which he seemed to
know, and then all was well indeed. It was long before I could get him
away. These delightful visits were repeated only about four times during
my stay of two weeks, when he admitted that it was tiring and he had
seen enough.

Another morning when I had not too much to do I looked up my brother
E——, who was driving a laundry wagon somewhere on the south side, and
got him to come out evenings and Sundays, as well as A——, who was
connected with an electric plant as assistant of some kind. I recall
now, with an odd feeling as to the significance of relationship and
family ties generally, how keenly important his and E——’s interests were
to me then and how I suffered because I thought they were not getting
along as well as they should. Looking in a shoe window in Pittsburgh a
year or two later, I actually choked with emotion because I thought that
maybe E—— did not earn enough to keep himself looking well. A—— always
seemed more or less thwarted in his ambitions, and whenever I saw him I
felt sad because, like so many millions of others in this grinding
world, he had never had a real chance. Life is so casual, and luck comes
to many who sleep and flies from those who try. I always felt that under
more advantageous circumstances A—— would have done well. He was so
wise, if slightly cynical, full of a laughing humor. His taste for
literature and artistic things in general was high, although entirely
untrained. Like myself he had a turn for the problems of nature,
constantly wondering as to the why of this or that and seeking the
answer in a broader knowledge. But long hours of work and poor pay
seemed to handicap him in his search. I was sad beyond words about his
condition, and urged him to come to St. Louis and try his luck there,
which he subsequently did.

Another thing I did was to visit the old _Globe_ office in Fifth Avenue
downtown, only to find things in a bad way there. Although Brady,
Hutchinson and Dunlap were still there the paper was not paying, was, in
fact, in danger of immediate collapse. John B. MacDonald, its financial
backer or angel, having lost a fortune in trying to make it pay and win
an election with it, was about ready to quit and the paper was on its
last legs. Could I get them jobs in St. Louis? Maxwell had gone to the
_Tribune_ and was now a successful copy-reader there.... In my new
summer suit and straw hat and with my various credentials, I felt myself
to be quite a personage. How much better I had done than these men who
had been in the business longer than I had! Certainly I would see what I
could do. They must write me. They could find me now at such-and-such a
hotel.

The sweets of success!

In the Newspaper Press Association offices in the great Administration
Building several of my friends from the press showed up and here we
foregathered to talk. Daily in this building at eight or nine or ten at
night I filed a report or message about one thousand words long and was
pleased to see by the papers that arrived that my text was used about as
I wrote it. Loving the grounds of the Fair so much, I browsed there
nearly all day long and all evening, escorting now one girl and now
another, but principally Miss W—— and her sister. Almost unconsciously I
was being fascinated by these two, with my Miss W—— the more; and yet I
was not content to confine myself to her but was constantly looking here
and there, being lured by a number of the others.

Thus one afternoon, after I had visited the Administration Building and
filed my dispatch rather early, Miss W—— having been unable to be with
me at the Fair, I returned to the hotel, a little weary of sightseeing,
and finding an upper balcony which faced the Fair sat there in a rocker
awaiting the return of some of the party. Presently, as I was resting
and humming to myself, there came down to the parlor, which adjoined
this balcony, that rosy Irish girl, Miss Ginity, who had attracted me
the very first morning. She seemed to be seeking that room in order to
sing and play, there being a piano here. She was dressed in a
close-fitting suit of white linen, which set off her robust little
figure to perfection. Her heavy, oily black hair was parted severely in
the middle and hung heavily over her white temples. She had a
rich-blooded, healthy, aggressive look, not unmarked by desire.

I was looking through the window when she came in and was wondering if
she would discover me, when she did. She smiled, and I waved to her to
come out. We talked about the Fair and my duties in connection with it.
When I explained the nature of my dispatches she wanted to know if I had
mentioned her name yet. I assured her that I had, and this pleased her.
I had the feeling that she liked me and that I could influence her if I
chose.

“What has become of your friend Miss W——?” she finally asked with a
touch of malice when I looked at her too kindly.

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen her since yesterday or the day before,”
which was not true. “What makes you ask that?”

“Oh, I thought you rather liked her,” she said boldly, throwing up her
chin and smiling.

“And what made you think it?” I asked calmly. It was in my mind that I
could master and deceive her as to this, and I proposed to try.

“Oh, I just thought so. You seemed to like her company.”

“Not any more than I do that of others,” I insisted with great
assurance. “She’s interesting, that’s all. I didn’t think I was showing
any preference.”

“Oh, I’m just joking,” she laughed. “I really don’t think anything about
it. One of the other girls made the remark.”

“Well, she’s wrong,” I said indifferently.

But I could see that she wasn’t joking. I could also see that I had
relieved her mind. My pose of indifference had quelled her feeling that
I was not wholly free. We sat and talked until dinner, and then I asked
her if she would like to go for a stroll in the park, to which she
agreed. By now we were obviously drifting toward each other emotionally,
and I thought how fine it would be to idle and dream with this girl in
the moonlight.

After dinner, when we started out, the air was soft and balmy and the
moon was just rising over the treetops in the East. A faint odor of
fresh flowers and fresh leaves was abroad and the night seemed to rest
in a soothing stillness. From the Midway came the sounds of muffled
drums and flutes, vibrant with the passion of the East. Before us were
the wide stretches of the park, dark and suggestive of intrigue where
groups of trees were gathered in silent, motionless array, in others
silvered by a fairy brightness which suggested a world of romance and
feeling.

I walked silently on with her, flooded with a voiceless feeling of
ecstasy. Now I was surely proving to myself that I was not entirely
helpless in the presence of girls. This time of idleness and moonlight
was in such smooth consonance with my most romantic wishes. She was not
so romantic, but the ardent luxury of her nature appeared to answer to
the romantic call of mine.

“Isn’t this wonderful?” I said at last, seeking to interest her.

“Yes,” she replied, almost practically. “I’ve been wondering why some of
the girls don’t come over here at night. It’s so wonderful. But I
suppose they’re tired.”

“They’re not as strong as you, that’s it. You’re so vigorous. I was
thinking today how healthy you look.”

“Were you? And I was just thinking what my mother would say if she knew
I was out here with a total stranger.”

“You told me you lived in St. Louis, I think?” I said.

“Yes, out in the north end. Near O’Fallon Park.”

“Well, then, I’ll get to see you when you go back,” I laughed.

“Oh, will you?” she returned coquettishly. “How do you know?”

“Well, won’t I?”

The thought flashed across my mind that once I had been in this selfsame
park with Alice several years before; we had sat under a tree not so
very far from here, near a pagoda silvered by the moon, and had listened
to music played in the distance. I remembered how I had whispered sweet
nothings and kissed her to my heart’s content.

“Well, you may if you’re good,” she replied.

I began jesting with her now. I deliberately descended from the ordinary
reaches of my intelligence, anxious to match her own interests with some
which would seem allied. I wanted her to like me, although I felt all
the while that we were by no means suited temperamentally. She was too
commonplace and unimaginative, although so attractive physically.

We sat in silence for a time, and I slipped my hand down and laid hold
of her fingers. She did not stir, pretending not to notice, but I felt
that she was thrilling also.

“You asked about Miss W——,” I said. “What made you do that?”

“Oh, I thought you liked her. Why shouldn’t I?”

“It never occurred to you that I might like some one else?”

“Certainly not. Why should I?”

I pressed her fingers softly. She turned on me all at once a face so
white and tense that it showed fully the feeling that now gripped her.
It was almost as if she were breaking under an intense nervous strain
which she was attempting to conceal.

“I thought you might,” I replied daringly. “There is some one, you
know.” I was surprising myself.

“Is there?” Her voice sounded weak. She did not attempt to look at me
now, and I was wondering how far I would go.

“You couldn’t guess, of course?”

“No. Why should I?”

“Look at me,” I said quietly.

“All right,” she said with a little indifferent shrug. “I’ll look at
you. There now; what of it?”

Again that intense, nervous, strained look. Her lips were parted in a
shy frightened smile, showing her pretty teeth. Her eyes were touched
with points of light where the moonlight, falling over my shoulder,
shone upon them. It gave her whole face an eerie, almost spectral
paleness, something mystical and insubstantial, which spoke of the
brevity and non-endurance of all these things. She was far more
wonderful here than ever she could have been in clear daylight.

“You have beautiful eyes,” I remarked.

“Oh,” she shrugged disdainfully, “is that all?”

“No. You have beautiful teeth and hair—such hair!”

“You mustn’t grow sentimental,” she commented, not removing her hand.

I slipped my arm about her waist and she moved nervously.

“And you still can’t guess who?” I said finally.

“No,” she replied, keeping her face from me.

“Then I’ll tell you,” and putting my free hand to her cheek I turned her
face to me.

I studied her closely, and then in a moment the last shred of reluctance
and coquetry in her seemed to evaporate. At the touch of my hand on her
cheek she seemed to change: the whole power of her ardent nature was
rising. At last she seemed to be yielding completely, and I put my lips
to hers and kissed her warmly, then pressed her close and held her.

“Now do you know?” I asked after a time.

“Yes,” she nodded, and for a proffered kiss returned an ardent one of
her own.

I was beside myself with astonishment and delight. For the life of me I
could not explain to myself how it was that I had achieved this result
so swiftly. Something in the idyllic atmosphere, something in our
temperaments, I fancied, made this quick spiritual and material
understanding possible, but I wanted to know how. For a time we sat thus
in the moonlight, I holding her hand and pressing her waist. Yet I could
not feel that I liked her beyond the charm of her physical appearance,
but that was enough at present. Physical beauty, with not too much
grossness, was all I asked then—youth, a measure of innocence, and
beauty. I pretended to have a real feeling for her and to be struck by
her beauty, which was not wholly untrue. My feelings, however, as I well
knew, were of so light and variable a character that it seemed almost a
shame to lure her in this fashion. Why had I done it? It was decidedly
unfortunate for her, I now thought, that we two should now meet under
the same roof, with Miss W—— and others, perhaps making a third, fourth,
or fifth possibly, but I anticipated no troublesome results. I might
keep them apart. Anyhow, if I could not, my relationship in either case
had not become earnest enough to cause me to worry. I hoped, however, to
make it so in the case of Miss W——; Miss Ginity I knew from the first to
be only a momentary flame.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER XL


AS I hoped, there were no ill effects from this little diversion, but by
now I was so interested in Miss W—— that I felt a little unfair to her.
As I look back on it I can imagine no greater error of mind or
temperament than that which drew me to her, considering my own variable
tendencies and my naturally freedom-loving point of view. But since we
are all blind victims of chance and given to far better hind-sight than
fore-sight I have no complaint to make. It is quite possible that this
was all a part of my essential destiny or development, one of those
storm-breeding mistakes by which one grows. Life seems thus often
casually to thrust upon one an experience which is to prove illuminating
or disastrous.

To pick up the thread of my narrative, I saw Miss Ginity at breakfast,
but she showed no sign that we had been out together the previous
evening. Instead, she went on her way briskly as though nothing had
happened, and this made her rather alluring again in my eyes. When Miss
W—— came down I suffered a slight revulsion of feeling: she was so fresh
and innocent, so spiritually and mentally above any such quick and
compromising relationship as that which I and my new acquaintance had
established the night before. I planned to be more circumspect in my
relations with Miss Ginity and to pay more attention to Miss W——.

This plan was facilitated by the way in which the various members of the
party now grouped and adjusted themselves. Miss W—— and her sister
seemed to prefer to go about together, with me as an occasional third,
and Miss Ginity and several of her new acquaintances made a second
company, with whom I occasionally walked. Thus the distribution of my
attentions was in no danger of immediate detection and I went gayly on.

A peculiar characteristic at this time and later was that I never really
expected any of these relationships to endure. Marriage might be well
enough for the average man but it never seemed to me that I should
endure in it, that it would permanently affect my present free
relationship with the world. I might be greatly grieved at times in a
high emotional way because they could not last, but that was rising to
heights of sentiment which puzzled even myself. One of the things which
troubled and astonished me was that I could like two, three, and even
more women at the same time, like them very much indeed. It seemed
strange that I could yearn over them, now one and now another. A good
man, I told myself, would not do this. The thought would never occur to
him, or if it did he would repress it sternly. Obviously, if not
profoundly evil I was a freak and had best keep my peculiar thoughts and
desires to myself if I wanted to have anything to do with good people. I
should be entirely alone, perhaps even seized upon by the law.

During the next two weeks I saw much of both Miss W—— and Miss Ginity.
By day I usually accompanied Miss W—— and her sister from place to place
about the grounds and of an evening strolled with Miss Ginity, all the
while wondering if Miss W—— really liked me, whether her present feeling
was likely to turn to something deeper. I felt a very definite point of
view in her, very different from mine. In her was none of the
variability that troubled me: if ever a person was fixed in conventional
views it was she. One life, one love would have answered for her
exactly. She could have accepted any condition, however painful or even
degrading, providing she was bolstered up by what she considered the
moral law. “To have and to hold, in sickness and in health, in poverty
and in riches, until death do us part.” I think the full force of these
laws must have been imbibed with her mother’s milk.

As for Miss Ginity, although she was conventional enough, I did feel
that she might be persuaded to relax the moral rule in favor of one at
least, and so was congratulating myself upon having achieved an
affectional triumph. She may not have been deeply impressed by my
physical attraction but there was something about me nevertheless which
seemed to hold her. After a few days she left the hotel to visit some
friends or relatives, to whom she had to pay considerable attention, but
in my box nights or mornings, if by any chance I had not seen her, I
would find notes explaining where she could be found in the evening,
usually at a drugstore near the park or her new apartment, and we would
take a few minutes’ stroll in the park. Such a fever of emotion as she
displayed at times! “Oh dear!” she would exclaim in an intense hungry
way upon seeing me. “Oh, I could hardly wait!” And once in the park she
would throw her strong young arms about me and kiss me in a fiery,
hungry way. There was one last transport the night before she left for
Michigan for a visit, when if I had been half the Don Juan I longed to
be we might have passed the boundary line; but lack of courage on my
part and inexperience on hers kept us apart.

When I saw her again in St. Louis——

But that is still another story.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XLI


THUS these days sped swiftly and ecstatically by. For once in my life I
seemed to be truly and consistently happy, and that in this very city
where but a year or two before I had suffered such keen distress. Toward
the middle of the second week Miss Ginity left for Michigan, and then I
had Miss W—— all to myself. By now I had come to feel an intense
interest in her, an elation over the mere thought of being with her. In
addition to this joy my mind and body seemed to be responding in some
ecstatic fashion to Chicago and the Fair as a whole, the romance and
color of it all, the winelike quality of the air, the raw, fresh, young
force of the city, so vividly manifested in its sounding streets, its
towering new buildings, its far-flung lines of avenues and boulevards,
and, by way of contrast, its vast regions of middle and lower class
poor. When we lived here as a family I had always thought that poverty
was no great hardship. The poor were poor enough, in all conscience, but
oh, the singing hope of the city itself! Up, up, and to work! Here were
tasks for a million hands. In spite of my attachment to the Fair and
Miss Ginity and Miss W—— I was still lured cityward, to visit the
streets in which we had once lived or where I had walked so much in the
old days, mere journeys of remembrance.

But as I wandered about I realized that the city was not my city any
more, that life was a baseless, shifting thing, its seeming ties
uncertain and unstable and that that which one day we held dear was
tomorrow gone, to come no more. How plain it was, I thought and with
some surprise, so ignorant is youth, that even seemingly brisk
organizations such as the _Globe_ here in Chicago and some others with
which I had been connected could wither or disappear completely, one’s
commercial as well as one’s family life be scattered to the four Winds.
Sensing this, I now felt an intense sense of loneliness and
homesickness, for what I could scarcely say: for each and every one of
past pleasant moments, I presume, our abandoned home in Flournoy Street,
now rented to another; my old desk at the _Globe_, now occupied by
another; Alice’s former home on this south side; N——’s in Indiana
Street. I was gloomy over having no fixed abode, no intimates worthy the
name here who could soothe and comfort me in such an hour as this.
Curiously enough, at such moments I felt an intense leaning toward Miss
W——, who seemed to answer with something stable and abiding. I am at a
loss even now to describe it but so it was, and it was more than
anything else a sense of peace and support which I found in her
presence, a something that suggested durability and warmth—possibly the
Whole closely-knit family atmosphere which was behind her and upon which
she relied. She would listen, apparently with interest, to all my
youthful and no doubt bragging accounts of my former newspaper
experiences here as well as in St. Louis, which I painted in high colors
with myself as a newspaper man deep in the councils of my paper. Walking
about the Fair grounds one night I wished to take her hand but so
overawed was I by her personality that I could scarcely muster up the
courage to do it. When I at last did she shyly withdrew her hand,
pretending not to notice.

The same thing happened an evening or two later when I persuaded her and
her sister to accompany me and a fellow-reporter whom I met in Chicago,
to Lincoln Park, where was a band concert and the playing of a colored
fountain given by the late C. T. Yerkes, then looked upon as one of the
sights of the city. I recall how warm and clear was the evening, our
trip northward on the newly-built “Alley L,” so-called because no public
thoroughfare could be secured for it, how when we got off at Congress
Street, where the enormous store of Siegel, Cooper & Company had only
recently been opened, we there took a surface cable to Lincoln Park. It
was barely dusk when we reached the park, and the fountain did not play
until nine; but pending its colored wonders, we walked along the shore
of the lake in the darkness, alone, her sister and my friend having been
swallowed up in the great crowd.

Once near the lake shore we were alone. I found myself desperately
interested without knowing how to proceed. It was a state of hypnosis, I
fancy, in which I felt myself to be rapturously happy because more or
less convinced of her feeling for me, and yet gravely uncertain as to
whether she would ever permit herself to be ensnared in love. She was so
poised and serene, so stable and yet so tender. I felt foolish,
unworthy. Were not the crude brutalities of love too much for her? She
might like me now, but the slightest error on my part in word or deed
would no doubt drive her away and I should never see her again. I wanted
to put my arm about her waist or hold her hand, but it was all beyond me
then. She seemed too remote, a little unreal.

Finally, moved by the idyllic quality of it all, I left her and strolled
down to the very edge of the lake where the water was lapping the sand.
I had the feeling that if she really cared for me she would follow me,
but she did not. She waited sedately on the rise above, but I felt all
the while that she was drawing toward me intensely and holding me as in
a vise. Half-angry but still fascinated, I returned, anything but the
master of this situation. In truth, she had me as completely in tow as
any woman could wish and was able, consciously or unconsciously, to
regulate the progress of this affair to suit herself.

But nothing came of this except a deeper feeling of her exceptional
charm. I was more than ever moved by her grace and force. What sobriety!
What delicacy of feature! Her big eyes, soft and appealing, her small
red mouth, her abundance of red hair, a constant enticement.

Before she left for her home, one of the inland counties about ninety
miles from St. Louis, all that was left of the party, which was not
many, paid a visit to St. Joe on the Michigan shore, opposite Chicago.
It was a deliciously bright and warm Sunday. The steamers were
comfortable and the beach at St. Joe perfect, a long coast of lovely
white sand with the blue waves breaking over it. En route, because of
the size of the party and the accidental arrangement of friends, I was
thrown in with R——, the sister of my adored one, and in spite of myself,
I found myself being swiftly drawn to her, desperately so, and that in
the face of the strong attachment for her sister. There was something so
cheering and whole-souled about her point of view, something so
provoking and elusive, a veritable sprite of gayety and humor. For some
reason, both on the boat and in the water, she devoted herself to me,
until she seemed suddenly to realize what was happening to us both. Then
she desisted and I saw her no more, or very little of her; but the
damage had been done. I was intensely moved by her, even dreaming of
changing my attentions; but she was too fond of her sister to allow
anything like that. From then on she avoided me, with the sole intent,
as I could see, of not injuring her sister.

We returned at night, I with the most troubled feelings about the whole
affair, and it was only after I had returned to St. Louis that the old
feeling for S—— came back and I began to see and think of her as I had
that night in Lincoln Park. Then her charm seemed to come with full
force and for days I could think of nothing else: the Fair, the hotel,
the evening walks, and what she was doing now; but even this was shot
through with the most jumbled thoughts of her sister and Miss Ginity....
I leave it to those who can to solve this mystery of the affections.
Miss W——, as I understood it, was not to come back to St. Louis until
the late autumn, when she could be found in an aristocratic suburb about
twenty miles out, teaching of course, whereas Miss Ginity was little
more than a half-hour’s ride from my room.

But, as I now ruefully thought, I had not troubled to look up Alice,
although once she had meant so much of Chicago and happiness to me. What
kind of man was I to become thus indifferent and then grieve over it?


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XLII


TO return and take up the ordinary routine of reporting after these
crystal days of beauty and romance was anything but satisfactory. Gone
was the White City with its towers and pinnacles and the wide blue wash
of lake at its feet. After the Fair and the greater city, St. Louis
seemed prosaic indeed. Still, I argued, I was getting along here better
than I had in Chicago. When I went down to the office I found Wandell
poring as usual over current papers. He was always scribbling and
snipping, like a little old leathery Punch, in his mussy office. The
mere sight of him made me wish that I were through with the newspaper
business forever: it brought back all the regularity of the old days.
When should I get out of it? I now began to ask myself for the first
time. What was my real calling in life? Should I ever again have my
evenings to myself? When should I be able to idle and dawdle as I had
seen other people doing? I did not then realize how few the leisure
class really comprises; I was always taking the evidence of one or two
passing before my gaze as indicating a vast company. _I_ was one of the
unfortunates who were shut out; _I_ was one whose life was to be a
wretched tragedy for want of means to enjoy it now when I had youth and
health!

“Well, did you have a good time?” asked Wandell.

“Yes,” I replied dolefully. “That’s a great show up there. It’s
beautiful.”

“Any of the girls fall in love with you?” he croaked good-humoredly.

“Oh, it wasn’t as bad as that.”

“Well, I suppose you’re ready to settle down now to hard work. I’ve got
a lot of things here for you to do.”

I cannot say that I was cheered by this. It was hard to have to settle
down to ordinary reporting after all these recent glories. It seemed to
me as though an idyllic chapter of my life had been closed forever.
Thereafter, I undertook one interesting assignment and another but
without further developing my education as to the workings of life. I
was beginning to tire of reporting, and one more murder or political or
social mystery aided me in no way.

I recall, however, taking on a strange murder mystery over in Illinois
which kept me stationed in a small countyseat for days, and all the time
there was nothing save a sense of hard work about it all. Again, there
was a train robbery that took me into the heart of a rural region where
were nothing but farmers and small towns. Again there was a change of
train service which permitted the distribution of St. Louis newspapers
earlier than the Chicago papers in territory which was somehow disputed
between them and because of which I was called upon to make a trip
between midnight and dawn, riding for hours in the mailcar, and then
describing fully this supposedly wonderful special newspaper service
which was to make all the inhabitants of this region wiser, kinder,
richer because they could get the St. Louis papers before they could
those of Chicago! I really did not think much of it, although I was
congratulated upon having penned a fine picture.

One thing really did interest me: A famous mindreader having come to
town and wishing to advertise his skill, he requested the _Republic_ to
appoint a man or a committee to ride with him in a carriage through the
crowded downtown streets while he, blindfolded but driving, followed the
directing thoughts of the man who should sit on the seat beside him. I
was ordered to get up this committee, which I did—Dick, Peter,
Rodenberger and myself were my final choice, I sitting on the front seat
and doing the thinking while the mindreader raced in and out between
cars and wagons, turning sharp corners, escaping huge trucks by a hair
only, to wind up finally at Dick’s door, dash up the one flight of
stairs and into the room (the door being left open for this), and then
climb up on a chair placed next to a wardrobe and, as per my thought,
all decided on beforehand, take down that peculiar head of Alley Sloper
and hand it to me.

Now this thing, when actually worked out under my very eyes and with
myself doing the thinking, astounded me and caused me to ponder the
mysteries of life more than ever. How could another man read my mind
like that? What was it that perceived and interpreted my thoughts? It
gave me an immense kick mentally, one that stays by me to this day, and
set me off eventually on the matters of psychology and chemic mysteries
generally. When this was written up as true, as it was, it made a
splendid story and attracted a great deal of attention. Once and for
all, it cleared up my thoughts as to the power of mind over so-called
matter and caused this “committee” to enter upon experiments of its own
with hypnotists, spiritualists and the like, until we were fairly well
satisfied as to the import of these things. I myself stood on the
stomach of a thin hypnotized boy of not more than seventeen years of
age, while his head was placed on one chair, his feet on another and no
brace of any kind was put under his body. Yet his stomach held me up.
But, having established the truth of such things for ourselves, we found
no method of doing anything with our knowledge. It was practically
useless in this region, and decidedly taboo.

Another individual who interested me quite as might a book or story was
a Spiritualist, a fat, sluglike Irish type, who came to town about this
time and proved to be immensely successful in getting up large meetings,
entrance to which he charged. Soon there were ugly rumors as to the
orgiastic character of his séances, especially at his home where he
advertised to receive interested spiritualists in private. One day my
noble and nosy city editor set me to the task of ferreting out all this,
with the intention of _sicking_ the moralists on the gentleman and so
driving him out of town. Was it because Mr. Wandell, interested in
morals or at least responding to the local sentiment for a moral city,
considered this man a real menace to St. Louis and so wished to be rid
of him? Not at all. Mr. Wandell cared no more for Mr. Mooney or the
public or its subsurface morals than he cared for the politics of
Beluchistan. In the heart of St. Louis at this very time, in Chestnut
Street, was a large district devoted to just such orgies as this
stranger was supposed to be perpetrating; but this area was never in the
public eye, and you could not, for your life, put it there. The public
apparently did not want it attacked, or if it did there were forces
sufficiently powerful to keep it from obtaining its wishes. The police
were supposed to extract regular payments from one and all in this area,
as Rodenberger, in the little paper he ran, frequently charged, but this
paper had no weight. The most amazing social complications occasionally
led directly to one or another of these houses, as I myself had seen,
but no comment was ever made on the peculiarity of the area as a whole
or its persistence in the face of so much moral sentiment. The vice
crusaders never troubled it, neither did the papers or the churches or
anybody else. But when it came to Mr. Mooney—well, here was an
individual who could be easily and safely attacked, and so—

Mr. Mooney had a large following and many defenders whose animosity or
gullibility led them to look upon him as a personage of great import. He
was unquestionably a shrewd and able manipulator, one of the finest
quacks I ever saw. He would race up and down among the members of his
large audience in his spiritualistic “church meetings,” his fat waxy
eyelids closed, his immense white shirt-front shining, his dress
coattails flying like those of a bustling butler or head-waiter, the
while he exclaimed: “Is there any one here by the name of Peter? Is
there any one here by the name of Augusta? There is an old white-bearded
man here who says he has something to say to Augusta. And Peter—Peter,
your sister says not to marry, that everything now troubling you will
soon come out all right.”

He would open these meetings with spiritual invocations of one kind and
another and pretend the profoundest religiosity and spirituality when as
a matter of fact he was a faker of the most brazen stamp. As Wandell
afterward showed me by clippings and police reports from other cities,
he had been driven from one city to another, cities usually very far
apart so that the news of his troubles might not spread too quickly. His
last resting-place had been Norfolk, Virginia, and before that he had
been in such widely scattered spots as Liverpool, San Francisco, Sydney,
New South Wales. Always he had been immensely successful, drawing large
crowds, taking up collections and doing a private séance business which
must have netted him a tidy sum. Indeed in private life, as I soon
found, he was a gourmet, a sybarite and a riant amorist, laughing in his
sleeve at all his touts and followers.

For some time I was unable to gather any evidence that would convict him
of anything in a direct way. Once he found the _Republic_ to be
unfavorable, he became pugnacious and threatened to assault me if I ever
came near him or his place or attempted to write up anything about him
which was not true! On the other hand, Wandell, being equally determined
to catch him, insisted upon my following him up and exposing him. My
task was not easy. I was compelled to hang about his meetings, trying to
find some one who would tell me something definite against him.

Going to his rooms one day when he was absent, I managed to meet his
landlady who, when I told her that I was from the _Republic_ and wanted
to know something about Mr. Mooney’s visitors, his private conduct and
so forth, asked me to come in. At once I sensed something definite and
important, for I had been there before and had been turned away by this
same woman. But today, for some reason she escorted me very secretly to
a room on the second floor where she closed and locked the door and then
began a long story concerning the peculiar relations which existed
between Mr. Mooney and some of his male and female disciples, especially
the female ones. She finally admitted that she had been watching Mr.
Mooney’s rooms through a keyhole. For weeks past there had been various
visitors whose comings and goings had meant little to her until they
became “so regular,” as she said, and Mr. Mooney so particularly engaged
with them. Then, since Mr. Mooney’s fame had been spreading and the
_Republic_ had begun to attack him, she had become most watchful and
now, as she told me, he was “carrying on” most shamefully with one and
another of his visitors, male and female. Just what these relations were
she at first refused to state, but when I pointed out to her that unless
she could furnish me with other and more convincing proof than her mere
word or charge it would all be of small value, she unbent sufficiently
to fix on one particular woman, whose card and a note addressed to Mr.
Mooney she had evidently purloined from his room. These she produced and
turned over to me with a rousing description of the nature of the
visits.

Armed with the card and note, I immediately proceeded to the west end
where I soon found the house of the lady, determined to see whether she
would admit this soft impeachment, whether I could make her admit it. I
was a little uncertain then as to how I was to go about it. Suppose I
should run into the lady’s husband, I thought, or suppose they should
come down together when I sent in my card? Or suppose that I charged her
with what I knew and she called some one to her aid and had me thrown
out or beaten up? Nevertheless I went nervously up the steps and rang
the bell, whereupon a footman opened the door.

“Who is it you wish to see?”

I told him.

“Have you an appointment with her?”

“No, but I’m from the _Republic_, and you tell her that it is very
important for her to see me. We have an article about her and a certain
Mr. Mooney which we propose to print in the morning, and I think she
will want to see me about it.” I stared at him with a great deal of
effrontery. He finally closed the door, leaving me outside, but soon
returned and said: “You may come in.”

I walked into a large, heavily furnished reception-room, representing
the best Western taste of the time, in which I nosed about thinking how
fine it all was and wondering how I was to proceed about all this once
she appeared. Suppose she proved to be a fierce and contentious soul
well able to hold her own, or suppose there was some mistake about this
letter or the statement of the landlady! As I was walking up and down,
quite troubled as to just what I should say, I heard the rustle of silk
skirts. I turned just as a vigorous and well-dressed woman of thirty-odd
swept into the room. She was rather smart, bronze-haired, pink-fleshed,
not in the least nervous or disturbed.

“You wish to see me?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“About what, please?”

“I am from the _Republic_,” I began. “We have a rather startling story
about you and Mr. Mooney. It appears that his place has been watched and
that you——”

“A story about me?” she interrupted with an air of hauteur, seeming to
have no idea of what I was driving at. “And about a Mr. Who? Mooney, you
say? What kind of a story is it? Why do you come to me about it? Why, I
don’t even know the man!”

“Oh, but I think you do,” I replied, thinking of the letter and card in
my pocket. “As a matter of fact, I know that you do. At the office right
now we have a card and a letter of yours to Mr. Mooney, which the
_Republic_ proposes to publish along with some other matter unless some
satisfactory explanation as to why it should not be printed can be made.
We are conducting a campaign against Mr. Mooney, as you probably know.”

I have often thought of this scene as a fine illustration of the crass,
rough force of life, its queer non-moral tangles, bluster, bluff, lies,
make-believe. Beginning by accusing me of attempted blackmail, and
adding that she would inform her husband and that I must leave the house
at once or be thrown out, she glared until I replied that I would leave
but that I had her letter to Mr. Mooney, that there were witnesses who
would testify as to what had happened between her and Mr. Mooney and
that unless she proceeded to see my city editor at once the whole thing
would be written up for the next day’s paper. Then of a sudden she
collapsed. Her face blanched, her body trembled, and she, a healthy,
vigorous woman, dropped to her knees before me, seized my hands and coat
and began pleading with me in an agonized voice.

“But you wouldn’t do that! My husband! My home! My social position! My
children! My God, you wouldn’t have me driven out of my own home! If he
came here now! Oh, my God, tell me what I am to do! Tell me that you
won’t do anything—that the _Republic_ won’t! I’ll give you anything you
want. Oh, you couldn’t be so heartless! Maybe I have done wrong—but
think of what will happen to me if you do this!”

I stared at her in amazement. Never had I been the center of such an
astonishing scene. On the instant I felt a mingled sense of triumph and
extreme pity. Thoughts as to whether I should tell the _Republic_ what I
knew, whether if I did it would have the cruelty to expose this woman,
whether she would or could be made to pay blackmail by any one raced
through my mind. I was sorry and yet amused. Always this thought of
blackmail, of which I heard considerable in newspaper work but of which
I never had any proof, troubled me. If I exposed her, what then? Would
Wandell hound her? If I did not would he discover that I was suppressing
the news and so discharge me? Pity for her was plainly mingled with a
sense of having achieved another newspaper beat. Now, assuredly, the
_Republic_ could make this erratic individual move on. To her I
proceeded to make plain that I personally was helpless, a mere reporter
who of himself could do nothing. If she wished she could see Mr.
Wandell, who could help her if he chose, and I gave her his home
address, knowing that he would not be at his office at this time of day,
but hoping to see him myself before she did. Weeping and moaning, she
raced upstairs, leaving me to make my way out as best I might. Once out
I meditated on this effrontery and the hard, cold work I was capable of
doing. Surely this was a dreadful thing to have done. Had I the right?
Was it fair? Suppose I had been the victim? Still I congratulated myself
upon having done a very clever piece of work for which I should be
highly complimented.

The lady must have proceeded at once to my city editor for when I
returned to the office he was there; he called me to him at once.

“Great God! What have you been doing now? Of all men I have ever known,
you can get me into more trouble in a half-hour than any other man could
in a year! Here I was, sitting peacefully at home, and up comes my wife
telling me there’s a weeping woman in the parlor who had just driven up
to see me. Down I go and she grabs my hands, falls on her knees and
begins telling me about some letters we have, that her life will be
ruined if we publish them. Do you want to get me sued for divorce?” he
went on, cackling and chortling in his impish way. “What the hell are
those letters, anyhow? Where are they? What’s this story you’ve dug up
now? Who is this woman? You’re the damnedest man I ever saw!” and he
cackled some more. I handed over the letter and he proceeded to look it
over with considerable gusto. As I could see, he was pleased beyond
measure.

I told my story, and he was intensely interested but seemed to meditate
on its character for some time. What happened after that between him and
the woman I was never able to make out. But one thing is sure: the story
was never published, not this incident. An hour or two later, seeing me
enter the office after my dinner, he called me in and began:

“You leave this with me now and drop the story for the present. There
are other ways to get Mooney,” and sure enough, in a few days Mr. Mooney
suddenly left town. It was a curious procedure to me, but at least Mr.
Mooney was soon gone—and——

But figure it out for yourself.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XLIII


TWO other incidents in connection with my newspaper work at this time
threw a clear light on social crimes and conditions which cannot always
be discussed or explained. One of these related to an old man of about
sixty-five years of age who was in the coffee and spice business in one
of those old streets which bordered on the waterfront. One afternoon in
mid-August, when there was little to do in the way of reporting and I
was hanging about the office waiting for something to turn up, Wandell
received a telephone message and handed me a slip of paper. “You go down
to this address and see what you can find out. There’s been a fight or
something. A crowd has been beating up an old man and the police have
arrested him—to save him, I suppose.”

I took a car and soon reached the scene, a decayed and tumbledown region
of small family dwellings now turned into tenements of even a poorer
character. St. Louis had what so large a center as New York has not:
alleys or rear passage-ways to all houses by which trade parcels, waste
and the like are delivered or removed. And facing these were old barns,
sheds, and tumbledown warrens of houses and flats occupied by poor
whites or blacks, or both. In an old decayed and vacant brick barn in
one of these alleys there had been only a few hours before a furious
scene, although when I arrived it was all over, everything was still and
peaceful. All that I could learn was that several hours before an old
man had been found in this barn with a little girl of eight or nine
years. The child’s parents or friends were informed and a chase ensued.
The criminal had been surrounded by a group of irate citizens who
threatened to kill him. Then the police arrived and escorted him to the
station at North Seventh, where supposedly he was locked up.

On my arrival at the station, however, nothing was known of this case.
My noble King knew nothing and when I looked on the “blotter,” which
supposedly contained a public record of all arrests and charges made,
and which it was my privilege as well as that of every other newspaper
man to look over, there was no evidence of any such offense having been
committed or of any such prisoner having been brought here.

“What became of that attempted assault in K Street?” I inquired of King,
who was drowsily reading a newspaper. “I was just over there and they
told me the man had been brought here.”

He looked up at me wearily, seemingly not interested. “What case? It
must be down if it came in here. What case are ye taalkin’ about? Maybe
it didn’t come here.”

I looked at him curiously, struck all at once by an air of concealment.
He was not as friendly as usual.

“That’s funny,” I said. “I’ve just come from there and they told me he
was here. It would be on the blotter, wouldn’t it? Were you here an hour
or two ago?”

For the first time since I had been coming here he grew a bit truculent.
“Sure. If it’s not on there it’s not on there, and that’s all I know. If
you want to know more than that you’ll have to see the captain.”

At thought of the police attempting to conceal a thing like this in the
face of my direct knowledge I grew irritable and bold myself.

“Where’s the captain?” I asked.

“He’s out now. He’ll be back at four, I think.”

I sat down and waited, then decided to call up the office for further
instructions. Wandell was in. He advised me to call up Edmonstone at the
Four Courts and see if it was recorded, which I did, but nothing was
known. When I returned I found the captain in. He was a taciturn man and
had small use for reporters at any time.

“Yes, yes, yes,” he kept reiterating as I asked him about the case.
“Well, I’ll tell you,” he said after a long pause, seeing that I was
determined to know, “he’s not here now. I let him go. No one saw him
commit the crime. He’s an old man with a big wholesale business in
Second Street, never arrested before, and he has a wife and grown sons
and daughters. Of course he oughtn’t to be doin’ anything of that
kind—still, he claims that he wasn’t. Anyhow, no good can come of
writin’ it up in the papers now. Here’s his name and address,” and he
opened a small book which he drew out of his pocket and showed me that
and no more. “Now you can go and talk to him yourself if you want to,
but if you take my advice you’ll let him alone. I see no good in pullin’
him down if it’s goin’ to hurt his family. But that’s as you newspaper
men see it.”

I could have sympathized with this stocky Irishman more if we had not
all been suspicious of the police. I decided to see this old man myself,
curiosity and the desire for a good story controlling me. I hurried to a
car and rode out to the west end, where, in a well-built street and a
house of fair proportions I found my man sitting on his front porch no
doubt awaiting some such disastrous onslaught as this and anxious to
keep it from his family. The moment he saw me he walked to his gate and
stopped me. He was tall and angular, with a grizzled, short, round beard
and a dull, unimportant face, a kind of Smith Brothers-coughdrop type.
Apparently he was well into that period where one is supposed to settle
down into a serene old age and forget all one ever knew of youth. I
inquired whether a Mr. So-and-So lived there, and he replied that he was
Mr. So-and-So.

“I’m from the _Republic_,” I began, “and we have a story regarding a
charge that has been made against you today in one of the police
stations.”

He eyed me with a nervous uncertainty that was almost tremulous. He did
not seem to be able to speak at first but chewed on something, a bit of
tobacco possibly.

“Not so loud,” he said. “Come out here. I’ll give you ten dollars if you
won’t say anything about this,” and he began to fumble in one of his
waistcoat pockets.

“No, no,” I said, with an air of profound virtue. “I can’t take money
for anything like that. I can’t stop anything the paper may want to say.
You’ll have to see the editor.”

All the while I was thinking how like an old fox he was and that if one
did have the power to suppress a story of this kind here was a fine
opportunity for blackmail. He might have been made to pay a thousand or
more. At the same time I could not help sympathizing with him a little,
considering his age and his unfortunate predicament. Of late I had been
getting a much clearer light on my own character and idiosyncrasies as
well as on those of many others, and was beginning to see how few there
were who could afford to cast the stone of righteousness or superior
worth. Nearly all were secretly doing one thing and another which they
would publicly denounce and which, if exposed, would cause them to be
shunned or punished. Sex vagaries were not as uncommon as the majority
supposed and perhaps were not to be given too sharp a punishment if
strict justice were to be done to all. Yet here was I at this moment
yelping at the heels of this errant, who had been found out. At the same
time I cannot say that I was very much moved by the personality of the
man: he looked to be narrow and close-fisted. I wondered how a business
man of any acumen could be connected with so shabby an affair, or being
caught could be so dull as to offer any newspaper man so small a sum as
ten dollars to hush it up. And how about the other papers, the other
reporters who might hear of it—did he expect to buy them all off for ten
dollars each? The fact that he had admitted the truth of the charges
left nothing to say. I felt myself grow nervous and incoherent and
finally left rather discomfited and puzzled as to what I should do. When
I returned to the office and told Wandell he seemed to be rather dubious
also and more or less disgusted.

“You can’t make much out of a case of that kind,” he said. “We couldn’t
print it if you did; the public wouldn’t stand for it. And if you attack
the police for concealing it then they’ll be down on us. He ought to be
exposed, I suppose, but—well——Write it out and I’ll see.”

I therefore wrote it up in a wary and guarded way, telling what had
happened and how the police had not entered the charge, but the story
never appeared. Somehow, I was rather glad of it, although I thought the
man should be punished.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XLIV


WHILE I was on the _Globe-Democrat_ there was a sort of race-track tout,
gambler, amateur detective and political and police hanger-on generally,
who was a purveyor of news not only to our police and political men but
to the sporting and other editors, a sort of Jack-of-all-news or
tipster. To me he was both ridiculous and disgusting, loud, bold,
uncouth, the kind of creature that begins as bootblack or newsboy and
winds up as the president of a racing association or ball team. He
claimed to be Irish, having a freckled face, red hair, gray eyes, and
rather large hands and feet. In reality he was one of those South
Russian Jews who looked so much like the Irish as to be frequently
mistaken for them. He had the wit to see that it would be of more
advantage to him to be thought Irish than Jewish, and so had changed his
name of Shapirowitz to Galvin—“Red” Galvin. One of the most offensive
things about him was that his clothes were loud, just such clothes as
touts and gamblers affect, hard, bright-checked suits, bright yellow
shoes, ties of the most radiant hues, hats of a clashing sonorousness,
and rings and pins and cuff-links glistening with diamonds or rubies—the
kind of man who is convinced that clothes and a little money make the
man, as they quite do in such instances.

Galvin had the social and moral point of view of both the hawk and the
buzzard. According to Wood, who early made friends with him quite as he
did with the Chinese and others for purposes of study, he was identified
with some houses of prostitution in which he had a small financial
interest, as well as various political schemes then being locally
fostered by one and another group of low politicians who were constantly
getting up one scheme and another to mulct the city in some underhanded
way. He was a species of political and social grafter, having all the
high ideals of a bagnio detective: he began to interest Mr. Tobias
Mitchell, who was a creature of an allied if slightly higher type, and
the pair became reasonably good friends. Mitchell used him as an
assistant to Hazard, Bellairs, Bennett, Hartung and myself: he supplied
the paper with stories which we would rewrite. I used to laugh at him,
more or less to his face, as being a freak, which of course generated
only the kindliest of feelings between us. He always suggested to me the
type of detective or plain-clothes man who would take money from
street-girls, prey on them, as indeed I suspected him of doing.

I wondered how he could make anything out of this newspaper connection
since, as Hartung and others told me, he could not write. It was
necessary to rewrite his stuff almost entirely. But his great
recommendation to Mitchell and others was that he could get news of
things where other reporters could not, among the police, detectives and
politicians, with whom he was evidently hand-in-hand. By reason of his
underworld connections many amazing details as to one form and another
of political and social jobbery came to light, which doubtless made him
invaluable to a city editor.

When some of his stories were given to me to rewrite we were thrown into
immediate and clashing contact. Because of his leers and bravado, when
he knew he could not write two good sentences in order, I frequently
wanted to brain him but took it out in smiles and dry cynical comments.
His favorite expressions were “See?” and “I sez tuh him” or “He sez tuh
me,” always accompanied by a contemptuous wave of a hand or a
pugnaciously protruded chin. One of the chief reasons why I hated him
was that Dick Wood told me he had once remarked that newspaper work was
a beggar’s game at best and that _writers grew on trees_, meaning that
they were so numerous as to be negligible and not worth considering.

I made the best of these trying situations when I had to do over a story
of his, extracting all the information I could and then writing it out,
which resulted in some of his stories receiving excellent space in the
day’s news and made him all the more pugnacious and sure of himself. And
at the same time these made him of more value to the paper. However, in
due time I left the _Globe-Democrat_, and one day, greatly to my
astonishment and irritation, he appeared at the North Seventh Street
station as a full-fledged reporter, having been given a regular position
by Mitchell and set to doing police work—out of which task at the Four
Courts, if I remember rightly, he finally ousted Jock Bellairs, who was
given to too much drinking.

To my surprise and chagrin I noticed at once that he was, as if by
reason of past intimacies of which I had not the slightest idea, far
more en rapport with the sergeants and the captain than I had ever
dreamed of being. It was “Charlie” here and “Cap” there. But what roiled
me most was that he gave himself all the airs of a newspaper man,
swaggering about and talking of this, that and the other story he had
written (I having done some of them myself!). The crowning blow was that
he was soon closeted with the captain in his room, strolling in and out
of that sanctum as if it were his private demesne and giving me the
impression of being in touch with realms and deeds of which I was never
to have the slightest knowledge. This made me apprehensive lest in these
intimacies tales and mysteries should be unfolded that would have their
first light in the pages of the _Globe-Democrat_ and so leave me to be
laughed at as one who could not get the news. I watched the
_Globe-Democrat_ more closely than ever before for evidence of such
treachery on the part of the police as would result in a “scoop” for
him, at the same time redoubling my interest in such items as might
appear. The consequence was that on more than one occasion I made good
stories out of things which Mr. Galvin had evidently dismissed as
worthless; and now and then a case into which I had inquired at the
stationhouse appeared in the _Globe-Democrat_ with details which I had
not been able to obtain and concerning which the police had insisted
they knew nothing.

For a long time, by dint of energy and a rather plain indication to all
concerned that I would not tolerate false dealing, I managed not only to
hold my own but occasionally to give my confrère a good beating—as when,
for one instance, a negro girl in one of those crowded alleys was cut
almost to shreds by an ex-lover armed with a razor, for reasons which,
as my investigation proved, were highly romantic. Some seven or eight
months before, this girl and her assailant had been living together in
Cairo, Illinois, and the lover, who was wildly fond of her, became
suspicious and finally satisfying himself that she was faithless set a
trap to catch her. He was a coal passer or stevedore, working now on one
boat and now on another plying the Mississippi between New Orleans and
St. Louis. And one day when she thought he was on a river steamer for a
week or two he burst in upon her and found her with another man. Death
would have been her portion, as well as that of her lover, had it not
been for the interference of friends which permitted the pair to escape.

The man returned to his task as stevedore, working his way from one
river city to another. When he came to Memphis, Natchez, New Orleans,
Vicksburg or St. Louis, he disguised himself as a peddler selling
trinkets and charms and in this capacity walked the crowded negro
sections of these cities calling his wares. One of these trips finally
brought him to St. Louis, and here on a late August afternoon, ambling
up this stifling little alley calling out his charms and trinkets, he
had finally encountered her. The girl put her head out of the doorway.
Dropping his tray he drew a razor and slashed her cheeks and lips, arms,
legs, back and sides, so that when I arrived at the City Hospital she
was unconscious and her life despaired of. The lover, abandoning his
tray of cheap jewelry, which was later brought to the stationhouse and
exhibited, had made good his escape and was not captured, during my stay
in St. Louis at least. Her present paramour had also gone his way,
leaving her to suffer alone.

Owing possibly to Galvin’s underestimate of its romance, this story
received only a scant stick as a low dive cutting affray in the
_Globe-Democrat_, while in the _Republic_ I had turned it into a negro
romance which filled all of a column. Into it I had tried to put the hot
river waterfronts of the different cities which the lover had visited,
the crowded negro quarters of Memphis, New Orleans, Cairo, the bold
negro life which two truants such as the false mistress and her lover
might enjoy. I had tried to suggest the sing-song sleepiness of the
levee boat-landings, the stevedores at their lazy labors, the idle,
dreamy character of the slow-moving boats. Even an old negro refrain
appropriate to a trinket peddler had been introduced:

“Eyah—Rings, Pins, Buckles, Ribbons!”

The barbaric character of the alley in which it occurred, lined with
rickety curtain-hung shacks and swarming with the idle, crooning,
shuffling negro life of the South, appealed to me. An old black mammy
with a yellow-dotted kerchief over her head, who kept talking of “disha
Gawge” and “disha Sam” and “disha Maquatia” (the girl), moved me to a
poetic frenzy. From a crowd of blacks that hung about the vacated shack
of the lovers after the girl had been taken away I picked up the main
thread of the story, the varying characteristics of the girl and her
lover, and then having visited the hospital and seen the victim I
hurried to the office and endeavored to convince Wandell that I had an
important story. At first he was not inclined to think so, negro life
being a little too low for local consumption, but after I had entered
upon some of the details he told me to go ahead. I wrote it out as well
as I could, and it went in on the second page. The next day, meeting
Galvin, having first examined the _Globe_ to see what had been done
there, I beamed on him cheerfully and was met with a snarl of rage.

“You think you’re a hell of a feller, dontcha, because yuh can sling a
little ink? Yuh think yuh’ve pulled off sompin swell. Well, say, yuh’re
not near as much as yuh think yuh are. Wait an’ see. I’ve been up
against wordy boys like yuh before, an’ I can work all around ’em. All
you guys do is to get a few facts an’ then pad ’em up. Yuh never get the
real stuff, never,” and he snapped his fingers under my nose. “Wait’ll
we get a real case sometime, you an’ me, an’ I’ll show yuh sompin.”

He glared at me with hard, revengeful eyes, and he then and there put a
fear into me from which I never recovered, although at the time I merely
smiled.

“Is that so? That’s easy enough to say, now that you’re trimmed, but I
guess I’ll be right there when the time comes.”

“Aw, go to hell!” he snarled, and I walked off smiling but beginning to
wonder nervously just what it was he was going to do to me, and how
soon.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XLV


SOME time before this (when I was still working for the
_Globe-Democrat_), there had occurred on the Missouri Pacific, about one
hundred and fifty miles west of St. Louis a hold-up, the story of which
interested me, although I had nothing to do with it. According to the
reports, seven lusty and daring bandits, all heavily armed and
desperate, had held up an eight-car Pullman and baggage express train
between one and two of the morning at a lonely spot, and after overawing
the passengers, had compelled the engineer and fireman to dismount,
uncouple the engine and run it a hundred paces ahead, then return and
help break open the door of the express car. This they did, using a
stick of dynamite or giant powder handed them by one of the bandits. And
then both were made to enter the express car, where, under the eye of
one of the bandits and despite the presence of the express messenger,
who was armed yet overawed, they were compelled to blow open the safe
and carry forth between twenty and thirty thousand dollars in bills and
coin, which they deposited on the ground in sacks and packages for the
bandits. Then, if you please, they were compelled to re-enter their
engine, back it up and couple it to the train and proceed upon their
journey, leaving the bandits to gather up their booty and depart.

Naturally such a story was of great interest to St. Louis, as well as to
all the other cities near at hand. It smacked of the lawlessness of the
’forties. All banks, express companies, railroads and financial
institutions generally were intensely interested. The whole front page
was given to this deed, and it was worth it, although during my short
career in journalism in this region no less than a dozen amazing train
robberies took place in as many months in the region bounded by the
Mississippi and the Rockies, the Canadian line and the Gulf. Four or
five of them occurred within a hundred miles of St. Louis.

The truth about this particular robbery was that there had not been
seven bandits but just one, an ex-railroad hand, turned robber for this
occasion only, and armed, as subsequent developments proved, with but a
brace of revolvers, each containing six shots, and a few sticks of
fuse-prepared giant powder! Despite the glowing newspaper account which
made of this a most desperate and murderous affair, there had been no
prowling up and down the aisles of the cars by bandits armed to the
teeth, as a number of passengers insisted (among whom was the Governor
of the State, his Lieutenant-Governor, several officers of his staff,
all returning from a military banquet or feast somewhere). Nor was there
any shooting at passengers who ventured to peer out into the darkness.
Just this one lone bandit, who was very busy up in the front attending
to the robbing. What made this story all the more ridiculous in the
light of later developments was that at the time the train stopped in
the darkness and the imaginary bandits began to shout and fire shots,
and even to rob the passengers of their watches, pins, purses, these
worthies of the State, or so it was claimed in guffawing newspaper
circles afterward, crawled under their seats or into their berths and
did not emerge until the train was well on its way once more. Long
before the true story of the lone bandit came out, the presence of the
Governor and his staff was well known and had lent luster to the deed
and strengthened the interest which later attached to the story of the
real bandit.

The St. Louis newspaper files for 1893 will show whether or not I am
correct. This lone bandit, as it was later indisputably proved, was
nothing more than an ex-farm hand turned railroad hand and then
“baggage-smasher” at a small station. Owing to love and poverty he had
plotted this astounding coup, which, once all its details were revealed,
fascinated the American public from coast to coast. That a lone
individual should undertake such an astounding task was uppermost in
everybody’s mind, including that of our city editors, and to the task of
unraveling it they now bent their every effort.

When the robbery occurred I was working for the _Globe-Democrat_; later,
when it was discovered by detectives working for the railroad and the
express company who the star robber was, I was connected with the
_Republic_. Early one afternoon I was shown a telegram from some
backwoods town in Missouri—let us say Bald Knob, just for a name’s
sake—that Lem Rollins (that name will do as well as any other), an
ex-employee of the Missouri Pacific, had been arrested by detectives for
the road and express company for the crime, and that upon searching his
room they had found most of the stolen money. Also, because of other
facts with which he had been confronted he had confessed that he and he
alone had been guilty of the express robbery. The dispatch added that he
had shown the detectives where the remainder of the money lay hidden,
and that this very afternoon he would be en route to St. Louis,
scheduled to arrive over the St. Louis & San Francisco, and that he
would be confined in the county jail here. Imagine the excitement. The
burglar had not told how he had accomplished this great feat, and here
he was now en route to St. Louis, and might be met and interviewed on
the train. From a news point of view the story was immense.

When I came in Wandell exclaimed: “I’ll tell you what you do,
Dreiser—Lord! I thought you wouldn’t come back in time! Here’s a St.
Louis & San Francisco time-table; according to it you can take a local
that leaves here at two-fifteen and get as far as this place, Pacific,
where the incoming express stops. It’s just possible that the _Globe_
and the other papers haven’t got hold of this yet—maybe they have, but
whatever happens, we won’t get licked, and that’s the main thing.”

I hurried down to the Union Station, but when I asked for a ticket to
Pacific, the ticket agent asked “Which road?”

“Are there two?”

“Sure, Missouri Pacific, and St. Louis & San Francisco.”

“They both go to the same place, do they?”

“Yes; they meet there.”

“Which train leaves first?”

“St. Louis & San Francisco. It’s waiting now.”

I hurried to it, but the thought of this other road in from Pacific
troubled me. Suppose the bandit should be on the other train instead of
on this! I consulted with the conductor when he came for my ticket and
was told that Pacific was the only place at which these two roads met,
one going west and the other southwest from there. “Good,” I thought.
“Then he is certain to be on this line.”

But now another thought came to me: supposing reporters from other
papers were aboard, especially the _Globe-Democrat_! I rose and walked
forward to the smoker, and there, to my great disgust and nervous
dissatisfaction, was Galvin, red-headed, serene, a cigar between his
teeth, slumped low in his seat smoking and reading a paper as calmly as
though he were bent upon the most unimportant task in the world.

“How now?” I asked myself. “The _Globe_ has sent that swine! Here he is,
and these country detectives and railroad men will be sure, on the
instant, to make friends with him and do their best to serve him. They
like that sort of man. They may even give him details which they will
refuse to give me. I shall have to interview my man in front of him, and
he will get the benefit of all my questions! At his request they may
even refuse to let me interview him!”

I returned to my seat nervous and much troubled, all the more so because
I now recalled Galvin’s threat. But I was determined to give him the
tussle of his life. Now we would see whether he could beat me or
not—not, if fair play were exercised; of that I felt confident. Why, he
could not even write a decent line! Why should I be afraid of him?...
But I was, just the same.

As the dreary local drew near Pacific I became more and more nervous.
When we drew up at the platform I jumped down, all alive with the
determination not to be outdone. I saw Galvin leap out, and on the
instant he spied me. I never saw a face change more quickly from an
expression of ease and assurance to one of bristling opposition and
distrust. How he hated me. He looked about to see who else might
dismount, then, seeing no one, he bustled up to the station agent to see
when the train from the west was due. I decided not to trail, and sought
information from the conductor, who assured me that the eastbound
express would probably be on time, five minutes later.

“It always stops here, does it?” I inquired anxiously.

“It always stops.”

As we talked Galvin came back to the platform and stood looking up the
track. Our train now pulled out, and a few minutes later the whistle of
the express was heard. Now for a real contest, I thought. Somewhere in
one of those cars would be the bandit surrounded by detectives, and my
duty was to get to him first, to explain who I was and begin my
questioning, overawing Galvin perhaps with the ease with which I should
take charge. Maybe the bandit would not want to talk; if so I must make
him, cajole him or his captors, or both. No doubt, since I was the
better interviewer, or so I thought, I should have to do all the
talking, and this wretch would make notes or make a deal with the
detectives while I was talking. In a few moments the train was rolling
into the station, and then I saw my friend Galvin leap aboard and with
that iron effrontery and savageness which I always hated in him, begin
to race through the cars. I was about to follow him when I saw the
conductor stepping down beside me.

“Is that train robber they are bringing in from Bald Knob on here? I’m
from the _Republic_, and I’ve been sent out here to interview him.”

“You’re on the wrong road, brother,” he smiled. “He’s not on here.
They’re bringing him in over the Missouri Pacific. They took him across
from Bald Knob to Denton and caught the train there—but I’ll tell you,”
and he consulted his watch, “you might be able to catch that yet if you
run for it. It’s only across the field here. You see that little yellow
station over there? Well, that’s the Missouri Pacific depot. I don’t
know whether it stops here or not, but it may. It’s due now, but
sometimes it’s a little late. You’ll have to run for it though; you
haven’t a minute to spare.”

“You wouldn’t fool me about a thing like this, would you?” I pleaded.

“Not for anything. I know how you feel. If you can get on that train
you’ll find him, unless they’ve taken him off somewhere else.”

I don’t remember if I even stopped to thank him. Instead of following
Galvin into the cars I now leaped to the little path which cut
diagonally across this long field, evidently well worn by human feet. As
I ran I looked back once or twice to see if my enemy was following me,
but apparently he had not seen me. I now looked forward eagerly toward
this other station, but, as I ran, I saw the semaphore arm, which stood
at right angles opposite the station, lower for a clear track for some
train. At the same time I spied a mail-bag hanging out on an express
arm, indicating that whatever this train was it was not going to stop
here. I turned, still uncertain as to whether I had made a mistake in
not searching the other train after all. Supposing the conductor had
fooled me.... Supposing the burglar were on there, and Galvin was
already beginning to question him! Oh, Lord, what a beat! And what would
happen to me then? Was it another case of three shows and no critic? I
slowed up in my running, chill beads of sweat bursting through my pores,
but as I did so I saw the St. Louis & San Francisco train begin to move
and from it, as if shot out of it, leaped Galvin.

“Ha!” I thought. “Then the robber is not on there! Galvin has just
discovered it! He knows now that he is coming in on this line”——for I
could see him running along the path. “Oh, kind Heaven, if I can beat
him to it! If I can only get on and leave him behind! He has all of a
thousand feet still to run, and I am here!”

Desperately I ran into the station, thrust my head in at the open office
window and called:

“When is this St. Louis express due here?”

“Now,” he replied surlily.

“Does it stop?”

“No, it don’t stop.”

“Can it be stopped?”

“It can _not_!”

“You mean that you have no right to stop it?”

“I mean I won’t stop it!”

Even as he said this there came the shriek of a whistle in the distance.

“Oh, Lord,” I thought. “Here it comes, and he won’t let me on, and
Galvin will be here any minute!” For the moment I was even willing that
Galvin should catch it too, if only I could get on. Think of what
Wandell would think if I missed it!

“Will five dollars stop it?” I asked desperately, diving into my pocket.

“No.”

“Will ten?”

“It might,” he replied crustily.

“Stop it,” I urged and handed over the bill.

The agent took it, grabbed a tablet of yellow order blanks which lay
before him, scribbled something on the face of one and ran out to the
track. At the same time he called to me:

“Run on down the track. Run after it. She won’t stop here. She can’t.
Run on. She’ll go a thousand feet before she can slow up.”

I ran, while he stood there holding up this thin sheet of yellow paper.
As I ran I heard the express rushing up behind me. On the instant it was
alongside and past, its wheels grinding and emitting sparks. It was
stopping! I should get on, and oh, glory be! Galvin would not! Fine! I
could hear the gritty screech of the wheels against the brakes as the
train came to a full stop. Now I would make it, and what a victory! I
came up to it and climbed aboard, but, looking back, I saw to my horror
that my rival had almost caught up and was now close at hand, not a
hundred feet behind. He had seen the signal, had seen me running, and
instead of running to the station had taken a diagonal tack and followed
me. I saw that he would make the train. I tried to signal the agent
behind to let the train go, but he had already done so. The conductor
came out on the rear platform and I appealed to him.

“Let her go!” I pleaded. “Let her go! It’s all right! Go on!”

“Don’t that other fellow want to get on too?” he asked curiously.

“No, no, no! Don’t let him on!” I pleaded. “I arranged to stop this
train! I’m from the _Republic_! He’s nobody! He’s no right on here!” But
even as I spoke up came Galvin, breathless and perspiring, and crawled
eagerly on, a leer of mingled triumph and joy at my discomfiture written
all over his face. If I had had more courage I would have beaten him
off. As it was, I merely groaned. To think that I should have done all
this for him!

“Is that so?” he sneered. “You think you’ll leave me behind, do you?
Well, I fooled you this trip, didn’t I?” and his lip curled.

I was beaten. It was an immensely painful moment for me, to lose when I
had everything in my own hands. My spirits fell so for the moment that I
did not even trouble to inquire whether the robber was on the train. I
ambled in after my rival, who had proceeded on his eager way, satisfied
that I should have to beat him in the quality of the interview.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XLVI


FOLLOWING Galvin forward through the train, I soon discovered the
detectives and their prisoner in one of the forward cars. The prisoner
was a most unpromising specimen for so unique a deed, short,
broad-shouldered, heavy-limbed, with a squarish, unexpressive, dull
face, blue-gray eyes, dark brown hair, big, lumpy, rough hands—just the
hands one would expect to find on a railroad or baggage smasher—and a
tanned and seamed skin. He had on the cheap nondescript clothes of a
laborer; a blue hickory shirt, blackish-gray trousers, brown coat and a
red bandanna handkerchief tied about his neck. On his head was a small
round brown hat, pulled down over his eyes. He had the still,
indifferent expression of a captive bird, and when I came up after
Galvin and sat down he scarcely looked at me or at Galvin.

Between him and the car window, to foil any attempt at escape in that
direction, and fastened to him by a pair of handcuffs, was the sheriff
of the county in which he had been taken, a big, bland, inexperienced
creature whose sense of his own importance was plainly enhanced by his
task. Facing him was one of the detectives of the road or express
company, a short, canny, vulture-like person, and opposite them, across
the aisle, sat still another “detective.” There may have been still
others, but I failed to inquire. I was so incensed at the mere presence
of Galvin and his cheap and coarse methods of ingratiating himself into
any company, and especially one like this, that I could scarcely speak.
“What!” I thought. “When the utmost finesse would be required to get the
true inwardness of all this, to send a cheap pig like this to thrust
himself forward and muddle what might otherwise prove a fine story! Why,
if it hadn’t been for me and my luck and my money, he wouldn’t be here
at all. And he was posing as a reporter—the best man of the _Globe_!”

He had the detective-politician-gambler’s habit of simulating an intense
interest and enthusiasm which he did not feel, his face wreathing itself
into a cheery smile the while his eyes followed one like those of a
basilisk, attempting all the while to discover whether his assumed
friendship was being accepted at the value he wished.

“Gee, sport,” he began familiarly in my presence, patting the burglar on
the knee and fixing him with that basilisk gaze, “that was a great trick
you pulled off. The papers’ll be crazy to find out how you did it. My
paper, the _Globe-Democrat_, wants a whole page of it. It wants your
picture too. Did you really do it all alone? Gee! Well, that’s what I
call swell work, eh, Cap?” and now he turned his ingratiating leer on
the county sheriff and the other detectives. In a moment or two more he
was telling the latter what an intimate friend he was of “Billy”
Desmond, the chief of detectives of St. Louis, and Mr. So-and-So, the
chief of police, as well as various other detectives and policemen.

“The dull stuff!” I thought. “And this is what he considers place in
this world! And he wants a whole page for the _Globe_! He’d do well if
he wrote a paragraph alone!”

Still, to my intense chagrin, I could see that he was making headway,
not only with the sheriff and the detectives but with the burglar
himself. The latter smiled a raw, wry smile and looked at him as if he
might possibly understand such a person. Galvin’s good clothes, always
looking like new, his bright yellow shoes, sparkling rings and pins and
gaudy tie, seemed to impress them all. So this was the sort of thing
these people liked—and they took him for a real newspaper man from a
great newspaper!

Indeed the only time that I seemed to obtain the least grip on this
situation or to impress myself on the minds of the prisoner and his
captors, was when it came to those finer shades of questioning which
concerned just why, for what ulterior reasons, he had attempted this
deed alone; and then I noticed that my confrère was all ears and making
copious notes. He knew enough to take from others what he could not work
out for himself. In regard to the principal or general points, I found
that my Irish-Jewish friend was as swift at ferreting out facts as any
one, and as eager to know how and why. And always, to my astonishment
and chagrin, the prisoner as well as the detectives paid more attention
to him than to me. They turned to him as to a lamp and seemed to be
immensely more impressed with him than with me, although the main lines
of questioning fell to me. All at once I found him whispering to one or
other of the detectives while I was developing some thought, but when I
turned up anything new, or asked a question he had not thought of, he
was all ears again and back to resume the questioning on his own
account. In truth, he irritated me frightfully, and appeared to be
intensely happy in doing so. My contemptuous looks and remarks did not
disturb him in the least. By now I was so dour and enraged that I could
think of but one thing that would have really satisfied me, and that was
to attack him physically and give him a good beating—although I
seriously questioned whether I could do that, he was so contentious,
cynical and savage.

However the story was finally extracted, and a fine tale it made. It
appeared that up to seven or eight months preceding the robbery, this
robber had been first a freight brakeman or yard hand on this road,
later being promoted to the position of superior switchman and assistant
freight handler. Previous to this he had been a livery stable helper in
the town in which he was eventually taken, and before that a farm hand
in that neighborhood. About a year before the crime this road, along
with many others, had laid off a large number of men, including himself,
and reduced the wages of all others by as much as ten per cent.
Naturally a great deal of labor discontent ensued. A number of train
robberies, charged and traced to dismissed and dissatisfied
ex-employees, now followed. The methods of successful train robbing were
so clearly set forth by the newspapers that nearly any one so inclined
could follow them. Among other things, while working as a freight
handler, Lem Rollins had heard of the many money shipments made by the
express companies and the manner in which they were guarded. The
Missouri Pacific, for which he worked, was a very popular route for
money shipments, both West and East, bullion and bills being in transit
all the while between St. Louis and the East, and Kansas City and the
West, and although express messengers even at this time, owing to
numerous train robberies which had been occurring in the West lately
were always well armed, still these assaults had not been without
success. The death of firemen, engineers, messengers, conductors and
even passengers who ventured to protest, as well as the fact that much
money had recently been stolen and never recovered, had not only
encouraged the growth of banditry everywhere but had put such an
unreasoning fear into most employees of the road as well as its
passengers, who had no occasion for risking their lives in defense of
the roads, that but few even of those especially picked guards ventured
to give the marauders battle. I myself during the short time I had been
in St. Louis had helped report three such robberies in its immediate
vicinity, in all of which cases the bandits had escaped unharmed.

But the motives which eventually resulted in the amazing singlehanded
attempt of this particular robber were not so much that he was a
discharged and poor railroad hand unable to find any other form of
employment as that in his idleness, having wandered back to his native
region, he had fallen in love with a young girl. Here, being hard
pressed for cash and unable to make her such presents as he desired, he
had first begun to think seriously of some method of raising money, and
later, another ex—railroad hand showing up and proposing to rob a train,
he had at first rejected it as not feasible, not wishing to tie himself
up in a crime, especially with others; still later, his condition
becoming more pressing, he had begun to think of robbing a train on his
own account.

Why alone—that was the point we were all most anxious to find
out—singlehanded, and with all the odds against him? Neither Galvin nor
myself could induce him to make this point clear, although, once I
raised it, we were both most eager to solve it. “Didn’t he know that he
could not expect to overcome engineer and fireman, baggage-man and
mail-man, to say nothing of the express messenger, the conductor and the
passengers?”

Yes, he knew, only he had thought he could do it. Other bandits (so few
as three in one case of which he had read) had held up large trains; why
not one? Revolver shots fired about a train easily overawed all
passengers, as well as the trainmen apparently. It was a life and death
job either way, and it would be better for him if he worked it out alone
instead of with others. Often, he said, other men “squealed” or they had
girls who told on them. I looked at him, intensely interested and moved
to admiration by the sheer animal courage of it all, the “gall,” the
grit, or what you will, imbedded somewhere in this stocky frame.

And how came he to fix on this particular train? I asked. Well, it was
this way: Every Thursday and Friday a limited running west at midnight
carried larger shipments of money than on other days. This was due to
exchanges being made between Eastern and Western banks; but he did not
know that. Having decided on one of these trains, he proceeded by
degrees to secure first a small handbag, from which he had scraped all
evidence of the maker’s name, then later, from other distant places, so
as to avoid all chance of detection, six or seven fused sticks of giant
powder such as farmers use to blow up stumps, and still later, two
revolvers holding six cartridges each, some cartridges, and cord and
cloth out of which he proposed to make bundles of the money. Placing all
this in his bag, he eventually visited a small town nearest the spot
which, because of its loneliness, he had fixed on as the ideal place for
his crime, and then, reconnoitering it and its possibilities, finally
arranged all his plans to a nicety.

Here, as he now told us, just at the outskirts of this hamlet, stood a
large water-tank at which this express as well as nearly all other
trains stopped for water. Beyond it, about five miles, was a wood with a
marsh somewhere in its depths, an ideal place to bury his booty quickly.
The express was due at this tank at about one in the morning. The
nearest town beyond the wood was all of five miles away, a mere hamlet
like this one. His plan was to conceal himself near this tank and when
the train stopped, and just before it started again, to slip in between
the engine tender and the front baggage car, which was “blind” at both
ends. Another arrangement, carefully executed beforehand, was to take
his handbag (without the revolvers and sticks of giant powder, which he
would carry), and place it along the track just opposite that point in
the wood where he wished the train to stop. Here, once he had concealed
himself between the engine and the baggage car, and the train having
resumed its journey, he would keep watch until the headlight of the
engine revealed this bag lying beside the track, when he would rise up
and compel the engineer to stop the train. So far, so good.

However, as it turned out, two slight errors, one of forgetfulness and
one of eyesight, caused him finally to lose the fruit of his plan. On
the night in question, between eight and nine, he arrived on the scene
of action and did as he had planned. He put the bag in place and boarded
the train. However, on reaching the spot where he felt sure the bag
should be, he could not see it. Realizing that he was where he wished to
work he rose up, covered the two men in the cab, drove them before him
to the rear of the engine, where under duress they were made to uncouple
it, then conducted them to the express car door, where he presented them
with a stick of giant powder and, ordered them to blow it open. This
they did, the messenger within having first refused so to do. They were
driven into the car and made to ‘blow open the safe, throwing out the
packages of bills and coin as he commanded. But during this time,
realizing the danger of either trainmen or passengers climbing down from
the cars in the rear and coming forward, he had fired a few shots toward
the passenger coaches, calling to imaginary companions to keep watch
there. At the same time, to throw the fear of death into the minds of
both engineer and fireman, he pretended to be calling to imaginary
confrères on the other side of the train to “keep watch over there.”

“Don’t kill anybody unless you have to, boys,” he had said, or “That’ll
be all right, Frank. Stay over there. Watch that side. I’ll take care of
these two.” And then he would fire a few more shots.

Once the express car door and safe had been blown open and the money
handed out, he had compelled the engineer and fireman to come down,
recouple the engine, and pull away. Only after the train had safely
disappeared did he venture to gather up the various packages, rolling
them in his coat, since he had lost his bag, and with this over his
shoulder he had staggered off into the night, eventually succeeding in
concealing it in the swamp, and then making off for safety himself.

The two things which finally caused his discovery were, first, the loss
of the bag, which, after concealing the money, he attempted to find but
without success; and, second (and this he did not even know at the
time), that in the bag which he had lost he had placed some time before
and then forgotten apparently a small handkerchief containing the
initials of his love in one corner. Why he might have wished to carry
the handkerchief about with him was understandable enough, but why he
should have put it into the bag and then forgot it was not clear, even
to himself. From the detectives we now learned that the next day at noon
the bag was found by other detectives and citizens just where he had
placed it, and that the handkerchief had given them their first clue.
The Wood was searched, without success however, save that foot-prints
were discovered in various places and measured. Again, experts
meditating on the crime decided that, owing to the hard times and the
laying-off and discharging of employees, some of these might have had a
hand in it; and so in due time the whereabouts and movements of each and
every one of those who had worked for the road were gone into. It was
finally discovered that this particular ex-helper had returned to his
native town and had been going with a certain girl, and was about to be
married to her. Next, it was discovered that her initials corresponded
to those on the handkerchief. Presto, Mr. Rollins was arrested, a search
of his room made, and nearly all of the money recovered. Then, being
“caught with the goods,” he confessed, and here he was being hurried to
St. Louis to be jailed and sentenced, while we harpies of the press and
the law were gathered about him to make capital of his error.

The only thing that consoled me, however, as I rode toward St. Louis and
tried to piece the details of his crime together, was that if I had
failed to make it impossible for Galvin to get the story at all, still,
when it came to the narration of it, I should unquestionably write a
better story, for he would have to tell his story to some one else,
while I should be able to write my own, putting in such touches as I
chose. Only one detail remained to be arranged for, and that was the
matter of a picture. Why neither Wandell nor myself, nor the editor of
the _Globe_, had thought to include an artist on this expedition was
more a fault of the time than anything else, illustrations for news
stories being by no means as numerous as they are today, and the
peripatetic photographer having not yet been invented. As we neared St.
Louis Galvin began to see the import of this very clearly, and suddenly
began to comment on it, saying he “guessed” we’d have to send to the
Four Courts afterward and have one made. Suddenly his eyes filled with a
shrewd cunning, and he turned to me and said:

“How would it be, old man, if we took him up to the _Globe_ office and
let the boys make a picture of him—your friends, Wood and McCord? Then
both of us could get one right away. I’d say take him to the _Republic_,
only the _Globe_ is so much nearer, and we have that new flashlight
machine, you know” (which was true, the _Republic_ being very poorly
equipped in this respect). He added a friendly aside to the effect that
of course this depended on whether the prisoner and the officers in
charge were willing.

“Not on your life,” I replied suspiciously and resentfully, “not to the
_Globe_, anyhow. If you want to bring him down to the _Republic_, all
right; we’ll have them make pictures and you can have one.”

“But why not the _Globe_?” he went on. “Wood and McCord are your friends
more’n they are mine. Think of the difference in the distance. We want
to save time, don’t we? Here it is nearly six-thirty, and by the time we
get down there and have a picture taken and I get back to the office
it’ll be half past seven or eight. It’s all right for you, I suppose,
because you can write faster, but look at me. I’d just as lief go down
there as not, but what’s the difference? Besides, the _Globe’s_ got a
much better plant, and you know it. Either Wood or McCord’ll make a fine
picture, and when we explain to ’em how it is you’ll be sure to get one,
the same as us—just the same picture. Ain’t that all right?”

“No it’s not,” I replied truculently, “and I won’t do it, that’s all.
It’s all right about Dick and Peter—I know what they’ll do for me if the
paper will let them, but I know the paper won’t let them, and besides,
you’re not going to be able to claim in the morning that this man was
brought to the _Globe_ first. I know you. Don’t begin to try to put
anything over on me, because I won’t stand for it, see? And if these
people do it anyhow I’ll make a kick at headquarters, that’s all.”

For a moment he appeared to be quieted by this and to decide to abandon
his project, but later he took it up again, seemingly in the most
conciliatory spirit in the world. At the same time, and from now on, he
kept boring me with his eyes, a thing which I had never known him to do
before. He was always too hang-dog in looking at me; but now of a sudden
there was something bold and friendly as well as tolerant and cynical in
his gaze.

“Aw, come on,” he argued. He was amazingly aggressive. “What’s the use
being small about it? The _Globe’s_ nearer. Think what a fine picture
it’ll make. If you don’t we’ll have to go clear to the office and send
an artist down to the jail. You can’t take any good pictures down there
tonight.”

“Cut it,” I replied. “I won’t do it, that’s all,” but even as he talked
a strange feeling of uncertainty or confusion began to creep over me.
For the first time since knowing him, in spite of all my opposition of
this afternoon and before, I found myself not quite hating him but
feeling as though he weren’t such an utterly bad sort after all. What
was so wrong about this _Globe_ idea anyhow, I began suddenly to ask
myself, in the most insane and yet dreamy way imaginable. Why wouldn’t
it be all right to do that? Inwardly or downwardly, or somewhere within
me, something was telling me that it was all wrong and that I was making
a big mistake even to think about it. I felt half asleep or surrounded
by clouds which made everything he said seem all right. Still, I wasn’t
asleep, and now I didn’t believe a word he said, but——

“To the _Globe_, sure,” I found myself saying to myself in spite of
myself, in a dumb, half-numb way. “That wouldn’t be so bad. It’s nearer.
What’s wrong with that? Dick or Peter will make a good picture, and then
I can take it along,” only at the same time I was also thinking, “I
shouldn’t really do that. He’ll claim the credit for having brought this
man to the _Globe_ office. I’ll be making a big mistake. The _Republic_
or nothing. Let him come down to the _Republic_.”

In the meantime we were entering St. Louis and the station. By then,
somehow, he had not only convinced the sheriff and the other officers,
but the prisoner. They liked him and were willing to do what he said. I
could even see the rural love of show and parade gleaming in the eyes of
the sheriff and the two detectives. Plainly, the office of the _Globe_
was the great place in their estimation for such an exhibition. At the
same time, between looking at me and the prisoner and the officers, he
had knitted a fine mental net from which I seemed unable to escape. Even
as I rose with these others to leave the train I cried: “No, I won’t
come in on this! It’s all right if you want to bring him down to the
_Republic_, or you can take him to the Four Courts, but I’m not going to
let you get away with this. You hear now, don’t you?” But then it was
too late.

Once outside, Galvin laid hold of my arm in an amazingly genial fashion
and hung on it. In spite of me, he seemed to be master of the situation
and to realize it. Once more he began to plead, and getting in front of
me he seemed to do his best to keep my optical attention. From that
point on and from that day to this, I have never been able to explain to
myself what did happen. All at once, and much more clearly than before,
I seemed to see that his plan in regard to the _Globe_ was the best. It
would save time, and besides, he kept repeating in an almost sing-song
way that we would go first to the _Globe_ and then to the _Republic_.
“You come up with me to the _Globe_, and then I’ll go down with you to
the _Republic_,” he kept saying. “We’ll just let Wood or McCord take one
picture, and then we’ll all go down to your place—see?”

Although I didn’t see I went. For the time, nothing seemed important. If
he had stayed by me I think he could have prevented my writing any story
at all. As it was he was so eager to achieve this splendid triumph of
introducing the celebrated bandit into the editorial rooms of the
_Globe_ first and there having him photographed and introduced to my old
chief, that he hailed a carriage, and, the six of us crowding into it,
we were bustled off in a trice to the door of the _Globe_, where, once I
reached it, and seeing him and the detectives and the bandit hurrying
across the sidewalk, I suddenly awoke to the asininity of it all.

“Wait!” I called. “Say, hold on! Cut this! I won’t do it! I don’t agree
to this!” but it was too late. In a trice the prisoner and the rest of
them were up the two or three low steps of the main entrance and into
the hall, and I was left outside to meditate on the insanity of the
thing I had done.

“Great God!” I suddenly exclaimed to myself. “What have I let that
fellow do to me? I’ve been hypnotized, that’s what it is! I’ve allowed
him to take a prisoner whom I had in my own hands at one time into the
office of our great rival to be photographed! He’s put it all over me on
this job—and I had him beaten! I had him where I could have shoved him
off the train—and now I let him do this to me, and tomorrow there’ll be
a long editorial in the _Globe_ telling how this fellow was brought
there first and photographed, and his picture to prove it!” I swore and
groaned for blocks as I walked towards the _Republic_, wondering what I
should do.

Distinct as was my failure, it was so easy, even when practically
admitting the whole truth, to make it seem as though the police had
deliberately worked against the _Republic_. I did not even have to do
that but merely recited my protests, without admitting or insisting upon
hypnotism, which Wandell would not have believed anyhow. On the instant
he burst into a great rage against the police department, seeing
apparently no fault in anything I had done, and vowing vengeance. They
were always doing this; they did it to the _Republic_ when he was on the
_Globe_. Wait—he would get even with them yet! Rushing a photographer to
the jail, he had various pictures made, all of which appeared with my
story, but to no purpose. The _Globe_ had us beaten. Although I had
slaved over the text, given it the finest turns I could, still there on
the front page of the _Globe_ was a large picture of the bandit, seated
in the sanctum sanctorum of the great G-D, a portion of the figure,
although not the head, of its great chief standing in the background,
and over it all, in extra large type, the caption:

               “LONE TRAIN ROBBER VISITS OFFICE OF GLOBE
                          TO PAY HIS RESPECTS”

and underneath in italics a full account of how he had willingly and
gladly come there.

I suffered tortures, not only for days but for weeks and months,
absolute tortures. Whenever I thought of Galvin I wanted to kill him. To
think, I said to myself, that I had thought of the two trains and then
run across the meadow and paid the agent for stopping the train, which
permitted Galvin to see the burglar at all, and then to be done in this
way! And, what was worse, he was so gayly and cynically conscious of
having done me. When we met on the street one day, his lip curled with
the old undying hatred and contempt.

“These swell reporters!” he sneered. “These high-priced ink-slingers!
Say, who got the best of the train robber story, eh?”

And I replied——

But never mind what I replied. No publisher would print it.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XLVII


THINGS like these taught me not to depend too utterly on my own skill. I
might propose and believe, but there were things above my planning or
powers, and creatures I might choose to despise were not so helpless
after all. It fixed my thoughts permanently on the weakness of the human
mind as a directing organ. One might think till doomsday in terms of
human ideas, but apparently over and above ideas there were forces which
superseded or controlled them.... My own fine contemptuous ideas might
be superseded or set at naught by the raw animal or psychic force of a
man like Galvin.

During the next few months a number of things happened which seemed to
broaden my horizon considerably. For one thing, my trip to Chicago
having revived interest in me in the minds of a number of newspaper men
there, and having seemingly convinced them of my success here, I was
bombarded with letters from one and another wanting to know whether or
not they could obtain work here and whether I could and would aid them.
At the close of the Fair in Chicago in October hard times were expected
in newspaper circles there, so many men being released from work. I had
letters from at least four, one of whom was a hanger-on by the name of
Michaelson, of whom more anon, who had attached himself to me largely
because I was the stronger and he expected aid of me. I have often
thought how frequently this has happened to me—one of my typical
experiences, as it is of every one who begins to get along. It is so
much easier for the strong to tolerate the weak than the strong.
Strength craves sycophancy. We want only those who will swing the censer
before our ambitions and desires. Michaelson, or “Mich,” was a poor hack
who had been connected with a commercial agency where daily reports had
to be written out as to the financial and social condition of John Smith
the butcher, or George Jones the baker. This led Mich, who was a
farm-boy to begin with, to imagine that he could write and that he would
like to run a country paper, only he thought to get some experience in
the city first. By some process, of which I forget the steps, he fixed
on me; and through myself and McEnnis, who was then so friendly to me,
had secured a tryout on the _Globe_ in Chicago. After I left McEnnis
quickly tired of him, and I heard of him next as working for the City
Press, an organization which served all newspapers, and paid next to
nothing. Next I heard that he was married (having succeeded so well!),
and still later he began to bombard me with pleas for aid in getting a
place in St. Louis. Also there were letters from much better men: H. L.
Dunlap, afterwards chief press advisor of President Taft; an excellent
reporter by the name of Brady, whom I have previously mentioned; and a
little later, John Maxwell.

Meanwhile, in spite of my great failure in connection with Galvin, my
standing with Wandell seemed to rise rather than sink. Believe it or no,
I became a privileged character about this institution or its city room,
a singular thing in the newspaper profession. Because of specials I was
constantly writing for the Sunday paper, I was taken up by the sporting
editor, who wanted my occasional help in his work; the dramatic editor,
who wanted my help on his dramatic page, asking me to see plays from
time to time; and the managing editor himself, a small, courteous,
soft-spoken, red-headed man from Kansas City, who began to invite me to
lunch or dinner and talk to me as though I knew much (or ought to) about
the world he represented. I was so unfitted for all this intellectually,
my hour of stability and feeling for organization and control having not
yet arrived, that I scarcely knew how to manage it. I was nervous, shy,
poorly spoken, at least in their presence, while inwardly I was blazing
with ambition, vanity and self-confidence. I wanted nothing so much as
to be alone with my own desires and labors even though I believed all
the while that I did not and that I was lonely and neglected!

Unsophisticated as I really was, I began to see Wandell as but a minor
figure in this journalistic world, or but one of many, likely to be here
and gone tomorrow, and I swaggered about, taking liberties which months
before I should never have dreamed of taking. He talked to me too freely
and showed me that he relied on my advice and judgment and admired my
work. All out-of-town assignments of any importance were given to me.
Occasionally at seven in the evening he would say that he would buy me a
drink if I would wait a minute, a not very wise thing to do. Later,
after completing one big assignment or another, I would stroll out of
the office at, say, eight-thirty or nine without a word or a
by-your-leave, and so respectful had he become that instead of calling
me down in person he began writing me monitory letters, couched in the
most diplomatic language but insisting that I abide by the rules which
governed other reporters. But by now I had grown so in my own estimation
that I smiled confidently, knowing very well that he would not fire me;
my salary was too small. Besides, I knew that he really needed me or
some one like me and I saw no immediate rival anywhere, one who would
work as hard and for as little. Still I would reform for a time, or
would plead that the managing or the dramatic editor had asked me to do
thus and so.

“To hell with the managing editor!” he one day exclaimed in a rage.
“This is my department. If he wants you to sit around with him let him
come to me, or else you first see that you have my consent.”

At the same time he remained most friendly and would sit and chat over
proposed stories, getting my advice as to how to do them, and as one man
after another left him or he wanted to enlarge his staff he would ask me
if I knew any one who would make a satisfactory addition. Having had
these appeals from Dunlap, Brady and several others still in Chicago, I
named first Dunlap (because I felt so sure of his merit), and then these
others. To my surprise, he had me write Dunlap to come to work, and when
he came and made good, Wandell asked me to bring still others to him.
This flattered me very much. I felt myself becoming a power. The result
was that after a time five men, three from Chicago and two from other
papers in St. Louis, were transferred to the staff of the _Republic_ by
reason of my recommendation, and that with full knowledge of the fact
that I was the one to whom they owed their opportunity. You may imagine
the airs which I assumed.

About this time still another thing occurred which lifted me still more
in my own esteem. Strolling into the Southern Hotel one evening I
chanced to see my old chief, McCullagh, sitting as was his custom near
one of the pillars of the lobby reading his evening paper. It had always
been such a pleasing and homelike thing in my days at the _Globe_ to
walk into the lobby around dinner time and see this great chief in his
low shoes and white socks sitting and reading here as though he were in
his own home. It took away a bit of the loneliness of the city for me
for he appeared to have no other home than this and he was my chief. And
now, for the first time since I had so ignominiously retired from the
_Globe_, I saw him as before, smoking and reading. Hitherto I had
carefully avoided this and every other place at such hours as I was
likely to encounter him. But now I had grown so conceited that I was not
quite so much afraid of him; he was still wonderful to me but I was
beginning to feel that I had a future of my own and that I could achieve
it, regardless perhaps of the error that had so pained me then. Still I
felt to the full all that old allegiance, respect and affection which
had dominated me while I was on the _Globe_. He was my big editor, my
chief, and there was none other like him anywhere for me, and there
never was afterward. Nearing the newsstand, for which I made at sight of
him in the hope that I should escape unseen, I saw him get up and come
forward, perhaps to secure a cigar or another paper. I flushed guiltily
and looked wildly about for some place to hide. It was not to be.

“Good evening, Mr. McCullagh,” I said politely as he neared me.

“How d’ do?” he returned gutturally but with such an air of sociability
as I had never noticed in him before. “How d’ do? Well, you’re still
about, I see. You’re on the _Republic_, I believe?”

“Yes, sir,” I said. I was so pleased and flattered to think that he
should trouble to talk to me at all or to indicate that he knew where I
was that I could scarcely contain myself. I wanted to thank him, to
apologize, to tell him how wonderful he was to me and what a fool I was
in my own estimation, but I couldn’t. My tongue was thick.

“You like it over there?”

“Yes, sir. Fairly well, sir.” I was as humble in his presence as a
jackie is before an officer. He seemed always so forceful and
commanding.

“That little matter of those theaters,” he began after a pause, turning
and walking back to his chair, I following, “—Um! um! I don’t think you
understand quite how I felt about that. I was sorry to see you go. Um!
um!” and he cleared his throat. “It was an unfortunate mistake all
around. I want you to know that I did not blame you so much. Um! You
might have been relieved of other work. I don’t want to take you away
from any other paper, but—um!—I want you to know that if you are ever
free and want to come back you can. There is no prejudice in my mind
against you.”

I don’t know of anything that ever moved me more. It was wonderful,
thrilling. I could have cried from sheer delight. He, my chief, saying
this to me! And after all those wretched hours! What a fool I was, I now
thought, not to have gone to him personally then and asked his
consideration. However, as I saw it, it was too late. Why change now and
go back? But I was so excited that I could scarcely speak, and probably
would not have known what to say if I had tried. I stood there, and
finally blurted out:

“I’m very sorry, Mr. McCullagh. I didn’t mean to do what I did. It was a
mistake. I had that extra assignment and—”

“O-oh, that’s all right—that’s all right,” he insisted gruffly and as if
he wished to be done with it once and for all. “No harm done. I didn’t
mind that so much. But you needn’t have left—that’s what I wish you to
understand. You could have stayed if you had wanted to.”

As I viewed it afterward, my best opportunity for a secure position in
St. Louis was here. If I had only known it, or, knowing, had been quick
to take advantage of it, I might have profited greatly. Mr. McCullagh’s
mood was plainly warm toward me; he probably looked upon me as a foolish
and excitable but fairly capable boy whom it would have been his
pleasure to assist in the world. He had brought me from Chicago; perhaps
he wished me to remain under his eye.... Plainly, a word, and I could
have returned, I am sure of it, perhaps never to leave. As it was,
however, I was so nervous and excited that I took no advantage of it.
Possibly he noticed my embarrassment and was pleased. At any rate, as I
mumbled my thanks and gratitude for all he had done for me, saying that
if I were doing things over I should try to do differently, he
interrupted me with:

“Just a moment. It may be that you have some young friend whom you want
to help to a position here in St. Louis. If you have, send him to me.
I’ll do anything I can for him. I’m always glad to do anything I can for
young men.”

I smiled and flushed and thanked him, but for the life of me I could
think of nothing else to say. It was so strange, so tremendous, that
this man should want to do anything for me after all the ridiculous
things I had done under him that I could only hurry away, out of his
sight. Once in the shielding darkness outside I felt better but sad. It
seemed as if I had made a mistake, as if I should have asked him to take
me back.

“Why, he as much as offered to!” I said to myself. “I can go back there
any time I wish, or he’ll give me a place for some one else—think of it!
Then he doesn’t consider me a fool, as I thought he did!”

For days thereafter I went about my work trying to decide whether I
should resign from the _Republic_ and return to him, only now I seemed
so very important here, to myself at least, that it did not seem wise.
Wasn’t I getting along? Would returning to work under Mitchell be an
advantage? I decided not. Also, that I had no real excuse for leaving
the _Republic_ at present; so I did nothing, waiting to be absolutely
sure what I wanted to do. There was a feeling growing in me at this time
that I really did not want to stay in St. Louis at all, that perhaps it
would be better for me if I should move on elsewhere. McEnnis, as I
recalled, had cautioned me to that effect. Another newspaper man writing
me from Chicago and asking for a place (a friend of Dunlap’s, by the
way), I recommended him and he was put to work on the _Globe-Democrat_.
And so my reputation for influence in local newspaper affairs grew.

And in the meantime still other things had been happening to me which
seemed to complicate my life here and make me almost a fixture in St.
Louis. For one thing, worrying over the well-being of my two brothers,
E—— and A——, who were still in Chicago, and wishing to do something to
improve their condition, I thought that St. Louis would be as good a
place for them as any in which to try their fortunes anew. Both had
seemed rather unhappy in Chicago and since I was getting along here I
felt that it would be only decent in me to give them a helping hand if I
could. The blood-tie was rather strong in me then. I have always had a
weakness for members of our family regardless of their deserts or mine
or what I thought they had done to me. I had a comfortable floor with
ample room for them if I chose to invite them, and I thought that my
advice and aid and enthusiasm might help them to do better. There was in
me then, and has remained (though in a fading form, I am sorry to say),
a sort of home-longing (the German _Heimweh_, no doubt) which made me
look back on everything in connection with our troubled lives with a
sadness, an ache, a desire to remedy or repair if possible some of the
ills and pains that had beset us all. We had not always been unhappy
together; what family ever has been? We had quarreled over trivial
things, but there had been many happy hours. And now we were separated,
and these two brothers were not doing as well as I.

I say it in faint extenuation of all the many hard unkind things I have
done in my time, that at the thought of the possible misery some of my
brothers and sisters might be enduring, the lacks from which they might
be hopelessly suffering, my throat often tightened and my heart ached.
Life bears so hard on us all, on many so terribly. What, E—— or A——
longing for something and not being able to afford it! It hurt me far
more than any lack of my own ever could. It never occurred to me that
they might be wishing to help me; it was always I, hard up or otherwise,
wishing that I might do something for them. And this longing in the face
of no complaint on their part and no means on mine to translate it into
anything much better than wishes and dreams made it all the more painful
at times.

My plan was to bring them here and give them a little leisure to look
about for some way to better themselves, and then—well, then I should
not need to worry about them so much. With this in mind I wrote first to
E—— and then A——, and the former, younger and more restless and always
more attracted to me than any of the others, soon came on; while A——
required a little more time to think. However, in the course of time he
too appeared, and then we three were installed in my rooms, the
harboring of my brothers costing me five additional dollars. Here we
kept bachelor’s hall, gay enough while it lasted but more or less
clouded over all the while by their need of finding work.

I had forgotten, or did not know, or the fact did not make a
sufficiently sharp impression on me, that this was a panic year (1893)
and that there were hundreds of thousands of men out of work, the
country over. Indeed, trade was at a standstill, or nearly so. When I
first went on the _Republic_, if I had only stopped to remember, many
factories were closing down or slowing up, discharging men or issuing
scrip of their own wherewith to pay them until times should be better,
and some shops and stores were failing entirely. It had been my first
experience of a panic and should have made a deep impression on me had I
been of a practical turn, for one of my earliest assignments had been to
visit some of the owners of factories and stores and shops and ask the
cause of their decline and whether better times were in sight.
Occasionally even then I read long editorials in the _Republic_ or the
_Globe_ on the subject, yet I could take no interest in them. They were
too heavy, as I thought. Yet I can remember the gloom hanging over
streets and shops and how solemnly some of the manufacturers spoke of
the crisis and the hard times yet in store. There were to be hard times
for a year or more.

I recall one old man at this time, very prosy and stiff and
conventional, “one of our best business men,” who had had a large iron
factory on the south side for fifty years and who now in his old age had
to shut down for good. Being sent out to interview him, I found him
after a long search in one of the silent wings of his empty foundry,
walking about alone examining some machinery which also was still. I
asked him what the trouble was and if he would resume work soon again.

“Just say that I’m done,” he replied. “This panic has finished me. I
could go on later, I suppose, but I’m too old to begin all over again. I
haven’t any money now, and that’s all there is to it.”

I left him meditating over some tool he was trying to adjust.

In the face of this imagine my gayly inviting my two brothers to this
difficult scene and then expecting them to get along in some way,
persuading them to throw up whatever places or positions they had in
Chicago! Yet in so doing I satisfied an emotional or psychic longing to
have them near me and to do something for them, and beyond that I did
not think.

In fact it took me years and years to get one thing straight in my poor
brain, and that was this: that aside from the economic or practical
possibility of translating one’s dreams into reality, the less one
broods over them the better. Here I was now, earning the very inadequate
stipend of eighteen dollars—or it may have been twenty or twenty-two,
for I have a dim recollection of having been given at least one raise in
pay—yet with no more practical sense than to undertake a burden which I
could not possibly sustain. For despite my good intentions I had no
surplus wherewith to sustain my brothers, assuming that their efforts
proved even temporarily unavailing. All this dream of doing something
for them was based on good will and a totally inadequate income. In
consequence it could not but fail, as it did, seeing that St. Louis was
far less commercially active than Chicago. It was not growing much and
there was an older and much more European theory of apprenticeship and
continuity in place and type of work than prevailed at that time in the
windy city. Work was really very hard to get, especially in
manufacturing and commercial lines, and in consequence my two brothers,
after only a week or two of pleasuring, which was all I could afford,
were compelled to hunt here and there, early and late, without finding
anything to do. True, I tried to help them in one way and another with
advice as to institutions, lines of work and the like, but to no end.

But before and after they came, how enthusiastically and no doubt
falsely I painted the city of St. Louis, its large size, opportunities,
beauties, etc., and once they were here I put myself to the task of
showing them its charms; but to no avail. We went about together to
restaurants, parks, theaters, outlying places. As long as it was new and
they felt that there was some hope of finding work they were gay enough
and interested and we spent a number of delightful hours together. But
as time wore on and fading summer days proved that their dreams and mine
were hopeless and they could do no better here than in Chicago if as
well, their moods changed, as did mine. The burden of expense was
considerable. While paying gayly enough for food and rent, and even
laundry, for the three, I began to wonder whether I should be able to
endure the strain much longer. Love them as I might in their absence,
and happy as I was with them, still it was not possible for me to keep
up this pace. I was depriving myself of bare necessities, and I think
they saw it. I said nothing, of that I am positive, but after a month or
six weeks of trial and failure they themselves saw the point and became
unhappy over it. Our morning and evening hours, whenever I could see
them in the evening, became less and less gay. Finally A——, with his
usual eye for the sensible, announced that he was tired of searching
here and was about to return to Chicago. He did not like St. Louis
anyhow; it was a “hell of a place,” a third-rate city. He was going back
where he could get work. And E——, perhaps recalling past joys of which I
knew nothing, said he was going also. And so once more I was alone.

Yet even this rough experience had no marked effect on me. It taught me
little if anything in regard to the economic struggle. I know now that
these two must have had a hard time replacing themselves in Chicago at
that time, but the meaning of it did not get to me then. As for E——,
some years later I persuaded him to join me in New York, where I managed
to keep him by me that time until he became self-supporting.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XLVIII


BECAUSE Miss W—— lived some distance from the city and would remain
there until her school season opened, I neglected to write to her; but
once September had come and the day of her return was near I began to
think of her and soon was as keenly interested as ever. Her simplicity
and charm came back to me with great force, and I one day sat down and
wrote her a brief letter recalling our Chicago days and asking her how
long it would be before she would be returning to St. Louis. I was
rather nervous now lest she should not answer.

In due time, however, a note came in which she told me that she expected
to be at Florissant, about twenty or twenty-five miles out of St. Louis,
by September fifteenth, when her school work would begin, and that she
would be in St. Louis shortly afterward to visit an aunt and hoped to
see me. There was something about the letter so simple, direct and yet
artful that it touched me deeply. As I have said, I really knew nothing
of the conditions which surrounded her, and yet from the time I received
this letter I sensed something that appealed to me: a rurality and
simplicity plus a certain artful daintiness—the power, I suppose, to
pose under my glance and yet evade—which held me as in a vise. Beside
her, all others seemed harder, holder, or of coarser fiber.

It does not matter now but as I look back on it there seems to have been
more of pure, exalted or frenetic romance in this thing (at first, and
even a year or so afterward), than in any mating experience of which I
have any recollection, with the possible exception of Alice. Unlike most
of my other affairs, this (in the beginning at least) seemed more a
matter of pure romance or poetry, a desire to see and be near her.
Indeed I could only think of her as a part of some idyllic country
scene, of walking or riding with her along some leafy country lane, of
rowing a little boat on a stream, of sitting with her under trees in a
hammock, of watching her play tennis, of being with her where grass,
flowers, trees and a blue sky were. In that idyllic world of the Fair
she had seemed well-placed. This must be a perfect love, I thought. Here
was your truly sweet, pure girl who inspired a man with a nobler passion
than mere lust. I began to picture myself with her in a home somewhere,
possibly here in St. Louis, of going with her to church even, for I
fancied she was of a strict religious bent, of pushing a baby
carriage—indeed, of leading a thoroughly domestic life, and being happy
in it!

We fell into a correspondence which swiftly took on a regular form and
resulted, on my part, in a most extended correspondence, letters so long
that they surprised even myself. I found myself in the grip of a
letter-writing fever such as hitherto had never possessed me, writing
long, personal, intimate accounts of my own affairs, my work, my dreams,
what not, as well as what I thought of her, of the beauty of life as I
had seen it with her in Chicago, my theories and imaginings in regard to
everything. As I see it now, this was perhaps my first and easiest
attempt at literary expression, the form being negligible and yet
sufficient to encompass and embody without difficulty all the surging
and seething emotions and ideas which had hitherto been locked up in me,
bubbling and steaming to the explosion point. Indeed the newspaper forms
to which I was daily compelled to confine myself offered no outlet, and
in addition, in Miss W—— I had found a seemingly sympathetic and
understanding soul, one which required and inspired all the best that
was in me. I was now, as I told myself, on the verge of something
wonderful, a new life. I must work, save, advance myself and better my
condition generally, so as to be worthy of her.... At the very same time
I was still able to see beauty in other women and the cloying delights
of those who would never be able to be as good as she! They might be
good enough for me but far beneath her whose eyes were “too pure to
behold evil.”

In the latter part of September she came to St. Louis and gave me my
first delighted sight of her since we had left Chicago. At this time I
was at the topmost toss of my adventures in St. Louis. I was, as I now
assumed, somebody. By now also I had found a new room in the very heart
of the city, on Broadway near the Southern, and was leading a bachelor
existence under truly metropolitan circumstances. This room was on the
third floor rear of a building which looked out over some nondescript
music hall whose glass roof was just below and from whence nightly, and
frequently in the afternoon, issued all sorts of garish music hall
clatter, including music and singing and voices in monologue or
dialogue. One block south were the Southern Hotel, Faust’s Restaurant,
and the Olympic Theater. In the block north were the courthouse and
Dick’s old room, which by now he had abandoned, having in spite of all
his fine dreams of a resplendent heiress married a girl whom together we
had met in the church some months before—a circus-rider! Thereafter he
had removed to a prosaic flat on the south side, an institution which
seemed to me but a crude and rather pathetic attempt at worthless
domesticity.

I should like to report here that something over a year later this first
marriage of his terminated in the death of his wife. Later—some two or
three years—he indulged in a second most prosaic and inartistic
romance—wedding finally, on this occasion, the daughter of a carpenter.
And her name—Sopheronisby Boanerga Watkins. And a year or two after this
she was burned to death by an exploding oil stove. And this was the man
who was bent on capturing an heiress.

In my new room therefore, because it was more of a center, I had already
managed to set up a kind of garret salon, which was patronized by Dick
and Peter, Rodenberger, Dunlap, Brady and a number of other
acquaintances. No sooner was I settled here than Michaelson, whose
affairs I had straightened out by getting him a place on the _Republic_,
put in an appearance, and also John Maxwell, who because of untoward
conditions in Chicago had come to St. Louis to better his fortunes. But
more of that later.

In spite of all these friends and labors and attempts at aiding others,
it was my affair with Miss W—— which now completely engrossed me. So
seriously had I taken this new adventure to heart that I was scarcely
able to eat or sleep. Once I knew definitely that she was inclined to
like me, as her letters proved, and the exact day of her arrival had
been fixed, I walked on air. I had not been able to save much money
since I had been on the _Republic_ (possibly a hundred dollars all told,
and that since my brothers had left), but of that I took forty or fifty
and bought a new fall suit of a most pronounced if not startling
pattern, the coat being extra long and of no known relation to any
current style (an idea of my own), to say nothing of such extras as
patent leather shoes, ties, collars, a new pearl-gray hat—all purchased
in view of this expected visit for her especial delectation! Although I
had little money for what I considered the essentials of
courtship—theater boxes, dinners and suppers at the best restaurants,
flowers, candy—still I hoped to make an impression. Why shouldn’t I?
Being a newspaper man and an ex-dramatic editor, to say nothing of my
rather close friendship with the present _Republic_ critic, I could
easily obtain theater tickets, although the exigencies of my work often
prevented, as I discovered afterward, my accompanying her for more than
an hour at a time.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XLIX


ON the day of her arrival I arrayed myself in my best, armed myself with
flowers, candy and two tickets for the theater, and made my way out to
her aunt’s in one of the simpler home streets in the west end. I was so
fearful that my afternoon assignment should prove a barrier to my seeing
her that day that I went to her as early as ten-thirty, intending to
offer her the tickets and arrange to stop for her afterwards at the
theater; or, failing that, to see her for a little while in the evening
if my assignments permitted. I was so vain of my standing in her eyes,
so anxious to make a good impression, that I was ashamed to confess that
my reportorial duties made it difficult for me to see her at all. After
my free days in Chicago I wanted her to think that I was more than a
mere reporter, a sort of traveling correspondent and feature man, which
in a way I was, only my superiors were determined to keep me for some
reason in the ordinary reportorial class taking daily assignments as
usual. Instead of confessing my difficulties I made a great show of
freedom.

I found her in a small tree-shaded, cool-looking brick house, with a
brick sidewalk before it and a space of grass on one side. Never did
place seem more charming. I stared at it as one might at a shrine. Here
at last was the temporary home of my beloved, and she was within!

I knocked, and an attractive slip of a girl (her niece, as I learned)
answered. I was shown into a long, dustless, darkened parlor. After
giving me time to weigh the taste and affluence of her relatives
according to my standards, she arrived, the beloved, the beautiful. In
view of many later sadder things, it seems that here at least I might
attempt to do her full justice. She seemed exquisite to me then, a trim,
agreeable sylph of a girl, with a lovely oval face, stark red hair
braided and coiled after the fashion of a Greek head, a clear pink skin,
long, narrow, almond-shaped, gray-blue eyes, delicate, graceful hands, a
perfect figure, small well-formed feet. There was something of the wood
or water nymph about her, a seeking in her eyes, a breath of wild winds
in her hair, a scarlet glory to her mouth. And yet she was so obviously
a simple and inexperienced country girl, caught firm and fast in
American religious and puritanic traditions and with no hint in her mind
of all the wild, mad ways of the world. Sometimes I have grieved that
she ever met me, or that I so little understood myself as to have sought
her out.

I first saw her, after this long time, framed in a white doorway, and
she made a fascinating picture. Here, as in Chicago, she seemed shy,
innocent, questioning, as one who might fly at the first sound. I gazed
in admiration. Despite a certain something in her letters which had
indirectly assured me of her affection or her desire for mine, still she
held aloof, extending a cool hand and asking me to sit down, smiling
tenderly and graciously. I felt odd, out of place, and yet wonderfully
drawn to her, passionately interested. What followed by way of
conversation I cannot remember now—talk of the Fair, I suppose, some of
those we had known, her summer, mine. She took my roses and pinned some
of them on, placing the rest in a jar. There was a piano here, and after
a time she consented to play. In a moment, it seemed, it was
twelve-thirty, and I had to go.

I walked on air. It seemed to me that I had never seen any one more
beautiful—and I doubt now that I had. There was no reason to be applied
to the thing: it was plain infatuation, a burning, consuming desire for
her. If I had lost her then and there, or any time within a year
thereafter, I should have deemed it the most amazing affair of my life.

I returned to the office and took some assignment, which I cut short at
three-thirty in order to get back to the Grand Opera House to sit beside
her. The play was an Irish love drama, with Chauncey Olcott, the singing
comedian, in the title rôle. With her beside me I thought it perfect.
Love! Ah, love! When the performance was ended I was ready to weep over
the torturing beauty of life. Outside we found the matinée crowds, the
carriages, the sense of autumn gayety and show in the air. A nearby
ice-cream and candy store was crowded to suffocation. Young girls of the
better families hummed like bees. Because of my poverty and uncertain
station I felt depressed, at the same time pretending to a station which
I felt to be most unreal. The mixture of ambition and uncertainty,
pride, a gay coaxing in the air, added to the need to return to
conventional toil—how these tortured me! Nothing surprises me now more
than my driving emotions all through this period. I was as one
possessed.

We parted at a street-car—when I wanted a carriage! We met at her aunt’s
home at eight-thirty, because I saw an opportunity of deliberately
evading an assignment. In this simple parlor I dreamed the wildest, the
most fantastic dreams. She was the be-all and the end-all of my
existence. Now I must work for her, wait for her, succeed for her! Her
mediocre piano technique seemed perfect, her voice ideal! Never was such
beauty, such color. St. Louis took on a glamour which it had never
before possessed.... If only this love affair could have gone on to a
swift fruition it would have been perfect, blinding.

But all the formalities, traditions, beliefs, of a conventional and
puritanic region were in the way. Love, as it is in most places, and
despite its consuming blaze, was a slow process. There must be many such
visits, I knew, before I could even place an arm about her. I was to be
permitted to take her to church, to concerts, the theater, a restaurant
occasionally, but nothing more.

The next morning I went to church with her; the next afternoon
unavoidable work kept me from her, but that night I shirked and stayed
with her until eleven. The next morning, since she had to catch an early
train for Florissant, I slept late, but during the next two weeks (she
could not come oftener, having to spend one Sunday with her “folks,” as
she referred to them) I poured forth my amazement and delight on reams
of thin paper. I wonder now where they are. Once there was a trunk full.

Perhaps the most interesting effect of this sudden fierce passion was
the heightened color it lent to everything. Never before had I realized
quite so clearly the charm of life as life, its wondrous singing, its
intense appeal. I remember witnessing a hanging about this time,
standing beside the murderer when the trap was sprung, and being
horrified, sickened to death, yet when I returned to the office and
there was a letter from her—the world was perfect once more, no evil or
pain in it! I followed up the horrors of a political catastrophe, in
which a city treasurer shot himself to escape the law—but a letter from
her, and the world was beautiful. A negro in an outlying county
assaulted a girl, and I arrived in time to see him lynched, but walking
in the wood afterward, away from the swinging body, I thought of her—and
life contained not a single ill. Such is infatuation. If I had been
alive before, now I was more than alive. I tingled all over with longing
and aspiration—to be an editor, a publisher, a playwright—I know not
what. The simple homes I had dreamed over before as representing all
that was charming and soothing and shielding were now twice as
attractive. Love, all its possibilities, paraded before my eyes, a
gorgeous, fantastic procession. Love! Love! The charm of a home in which
it would find its most appropriate setting! The brooding tenderness of
it! Its healing force against the blows of ordinary life! To be married,
to have your beloved with you, to have a charming home to which to
return of an evening, or at any hour, sick or well! I was young, in good
health and spirits. In a few years I should be neither so young nor so
vital. Age would descend, cold, gray, thin, passionless. This glorious,
glorious period of love, desire, would be gone, and then what? Ah, and
then what! If I did not achieve now and soon all that I desired in the
way of tenderness, fortune, beauty—now when I was young and could enjoy
it—my chance would once and for all be over. I should be helpless. Youth
would come no more! Love would come no more! But now—now—life was
sounding, singing, urging, teasing; but also it was running away fast,
and what was I doing about it? What could I do?

The five months which followed were a period of just such color and
mood, the richest period of rank romanticism I have ever endured. At
times I could laugh, at others sigh, over the incidents of this period,
for there is as little happiness in love as there is out of it, at least
in my case. If I had only known myself I might have seen, and that
plainly, that it was not any of the charming conventional things which
this girl represented but her charming physical self that I craved. The
world, as I see it now, has trussed itself up too helplessly with too
many strings of convention, religion, dogma. It has accepted too many
rules, all calculated for the guidance of individuals in connection with
the propagation and rearing of children, the conquest and development of
this planet. This is all very well for those who are interested in that,
but what of those who are not? Is it everybody’s business to get married
and accept all the dictates of conventional society—that is, bear and
rear children according to a given social or religious theory? Cannot
the world have too much of mere breeding? Are two billion wage slaves,
for instance, more advantageous than one billion, or one billion more
than five hundred million? Or is an unconquered planet less interesting
than a conquered one? Isn’t the mere _contact of love_, if it produces
ideas, experiences, tragedies even, as important as raising a few
hundred thousand coal miners, railroad hands or heroes destined to be
eventually ground or shot in some contest with autocratic or
capitalistic classes? And, furthermore, I am inclined to suspect that
the monogamous standard to which the world has been tethered much too
harshly for a thousand years or more now is entirely wrong. I do not
believe that it is Nature’s only or ultimate way of continuing or
preserving itself. Nor am I inclined to accept the belief that it
produces the highest type of citizen. The ancient world knew little of
strict monogamy, and some countries today are still without it. Even in
our religious or moralistic day we are beginning to see less and less of
its strict enforcement. (Fifty thousand divorces in one State in one
year is but a straw.) It is a product, I suspect, of intellectual
lethargy or dullness, a mental incapacity for individuality. What we
have achieved is a vast ruthless machine for the propagation of people
far beyond the world’s need, even its capacity to support decently. In
special cases, where the strong find themselves, we see more of secret
polygamy and polyandry than is suspected by the dull and the ignorant.
Economic opportunity, plus love or attraction, arranges all this, all
the churches, laws, disasters to the contrary notwithstanding. Love or
desire, where economic conditions permit, will and does find a way.

Here I was dreaming of all the excellencies of which the
conventionalists prate in connection with home, peace, stability and the
like, anxious to put my neck under that yoke, when in reality what I
really wanted, and the only thing that my peculiarly erratic and
individual disposition would permit, was mental and personal freedom. I
did not really want any such conventional girl at all, and if I had
clearly understood what it all meant I might have been only too glad to
give her up. What I wanted was the joy of possessing her without any of
the hindrances or binding chains of convention and monogamy, but she
would none of it. This unsatisfied desire, added to a huge world-sorrow
over life itself, the richness and promise of the visible scene, the
sting and urge of its beauty, the briefness of our days, the uncertainty
of our hopes, the smallness of our capacity to achieve or consume where
so much is, produced an intense ache and urge which endured until I left
St. Louis. I was so staggered by the promise and the possibilities of
life, at the same time growing more and more doubtful of my capacity to
achieve anything, that I was falling into a profound sadness. Yet I was
only twenty-two, and between these thoughts would come intense waves of
do and dare: I was to be all that I fancied, achieve all that I dreamed.
As a contrast to all these thoughts, fancies, and depressions, I
indulged in a heavy military coat of the most disturbing length, a
wide-brimmed Stetson hat, Southern style, gloves, a cane, soft pleated
shirts—a most _outré_ equipment for all occasions including those on
which I could call upon her or take her to a theater or restaurant. I
remember one Saturday morning, when I was on my way to see my lady love
and had stopped at the Olympic to secure two seats, meeting a dapper,
rather flashy newspaper man. I had on the military coat, and the hat, a
pair of bright yellow gloves, narrow-toed patent leather shoes, a ring,
a pin, a suit brighter than his own, a cane, and I was carrying a
bouquet of roses. I was about to take a street-car out to her place, not
being prosperous enough to hire a carriage.

“Well, for sake, old man, what’s up?” he called, seizing me by the arm.
“You’re not getting married, are you?”

“Aw, cut the comedy!” I replied, or words to that effect. “Can’t a
fellow put on any decent clothes in this town without exciting the
natives? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, nothing,” he replied apologetically. “You look swell. You got
on more dog than ever I see a newspaper man around here pull. You must
be getting along! How are things at the _Republic_, anyhow?”

We now conversed more affably. He touched the coat gingerly and with
interest, felt of the quality of the cloth, looked me up and down,
seemingly with admiration—more likely with amazement—shook his head
approvingly and said: “Some class, I must say. You’re right there,
sport, with the raiment,” and walked off.

It was in this style that I prosecuted my quest. For my ordinary day’s
labor I wore other clothes, but sometimes, when stealing a march on my
city editor Saturday afternoons or Sundays or evenings, I had to perform
a lightning change act in order to get into my finery, pay my visit, and
still get back to the office between eleven and twelve, or before
six-thirty, in my ordinary clothes. Sometimes I changed as many as three
times in one afternoon or evening. My room being near here facilitated
this. A little later, when I was more experienced, I aided myself to
this speed by wearing all but the coat and hat, an array in which I
never presumed to enter the office. Even my ultra impressive suit and my
shoes, shirts and ties attracted attention.

“Gee whiz, Mr. Dreiser!” my pet office boy at the _Republic_ once
remarked to me as I entered in this array, “you certainly look as though
you ought to own the paper! The boss don’t look like you.”

Wandell, Williams, the sporting editor, the religious editor, the
dramatic editor, all eyed me with evident curiosity. “You certainly are
laying it on thick these days,” Williams genially remarked, beaming on
me with his one eye.

As for my lady love—well, I reached the place where I could hold her
hand, put my arms about her, kiss her, but never could I induce her to
sit upon my lap. That was reserved for a much later date.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER L


ALL love transports contain an element of the ridiculous, I presume, but
to each how very important. I will pass mine over with what I have
already said, save this: that each little variation in her costume,
however slight, in her coiffure, or the way she looked or walked amid
new surroundings, all seemed to re-emphasize the perfection that I had
discovered and was so fortunate as to possess. She gave me her
photograph, which I framed in silver and hung in my room. I begged for a
lock of her hair, and finding a bit of blue ribbon that I knew belonged
to her purloined that. She would not allow me to visit at Florissant,
where she taught, being bashful about confessing this new relationship,
but nevertheless, on several Sundays when she was at her home “up the
State” I visited this glorious region, hallowed by her presence, and
tried to decide for myself just where she lived and taught—her sacred
rooms! A little later an exposition or State Fair was held in the
enormous exposition building at Fourteenth and Olive streets, and here,
when the Sousa concerts were first on, and later when the gay Veiled
Prophets festivities began (a sort of Roman Harvest rejoicing, winding
up with a great parade and ball), I saw more of her than ever before. It
was during this time, in a letter, that she confessed that she loved me.
Before this, however, seeing that I made no progress in any other way,
being allowed no intimacy beyond an occasional stolen kiss, I had
proposed to her and been accepted with a kind of morbid formalism. I had
had to ask her in the most definite way and be formally accepted as her
affianced husband. Thereafter I squandered my last cent to purchase a
diamond ring at wholesale, secured through a friend on the _Globe_, and
then indeed I felt myself set up in the world, as one who was destined
to tread the conventional and peaceful ways of the majority.

Yet in Spite of my profound infatuation I was still able to see beauty
in other women and be moved by it. The chemical attractions and
repulsions which draw us away from one and to another are beginning to
be more clearly understood in these days and to undermine our more
formal notions of stability and order, but even at that time this
variation in myself might have taught me to look with suspicion on my
own emotions. I think I did imagine that I was a scoundrel in harboring
lusts after other women, when I was so deeply involved with this one,
but I told myself that I must be peculiarly afflicted in this way, that
all men were not so, that I myself should and probably would hold myself
in check eventually, etc.; all of which merely proves how disjointed and
non-self-understanding can be the processes of the human mind. Not only
do we fail to see ourselves as others see us but we have not the
faintest conception of ourselves as we really are.

An incident which might have proved to me how shallow was the depth of
my supposed feeling, and that it was nothing more than a strong
sex-desire, was this: One night about twelve a telephone message to the
_Republic_ stated that on a branch extension of one of the car lines,
about seven or eight miles from the city, a murder had just been
committed. Three negroes entering a lone “Owl” car, which ran from the
city terminus to a small village had shot and killed the conductor and
fired on the motorman. A young girl who had been on board, the only
passenger, had escaped by the front door and had not since been heard
of—or so the telephone message stated. As I happened to be in the office
at the time, the story was assigned to me.

By good luck I managed to catch a twelve o’clock theater car and arrived
at the end of the line at twelve forty, where I learned that the body of
the dead man had been transferred to his home at some point farther out,
and that a posse of male residents of the region had already been
organized and were now helping the police to search this country round
for the negroes. When I asked about the girl who had been on board one
of the men at the barn exclaimed: “Sure, she’s a wonder! You want to
tell about her. She hunted up a house, borrowed a horse, and notified
everybody along the route. She’s the one that first phoned the news.”

Here was a story indeed. Midnight, a murder, dark woods, lonely country.
A girl flees from three murderous, drunken negroes, borrows a horse, and
tells all the countryside. What more could a newspaper man want? I was
all ears. Now if she were only good-looking!

I now realized that my first duty was not so much to see the body of the
dead man and interview his wife, although that was an item not to be
neglected, or the motorman who had escaped with his life, although he
was here and told me all that had happened quite accurately, but this
girl, this heroine, who, they said, was no more than seventeen or
eighteen.

The car in which the murder had been committed was here in the barn. The
blood-stains of the victim were still to be seen on the floor. I took
this car, which was now carrying a group of detectives, a doctor and
some other officials, to the dead man’s house, or to the house of the
girl, I forget which. When I arrived there I discovered that a large
comfortable residence some little distance beyond the home of the dead
man was the scene of all news and activity, for here it was that the
body of the conductor had been carried, and from here the girl had taken
a horse and ridden far and wide to call others to her aid. When I
hurried up to the door she had returned and was holding a sort of levee.
The large livingroom was crowded, and in the center, under the flare of
a hanging lamp, was this maiden, rather pretty, with her hair brushed
straight back from her forehead, and her face alight with the intensity
of her recent experiences and actions. I drew near and surveyed her over
the shoulders of the others as she talked, finally getting close enough
to engage her in direct conversation, as was my duty. She was very
simple in manner and speech—not quite the dashing heroine I had imagined
yet attractive enough. For my benefit, and possibly for the dozenth
time, she narrated all that had befallen her from the time she boarded
the car until she had leaped from the front step after the shot and hid
in the wood, finding her way to this house eventually and borrowing a
horse to notify others, because, for one thing, there was no telephone
here, and for another there was no man at home at the time who could
have gone for her. With a kind of naïf enthusiasm she explained to me
that once the shot had been fired and the conductor had fallen face down
in the car (he had come in to rebuke these boisterous blacks, who were
addressing bold remarks to her), she was cold with fright, but that
after she had left the car she felt calmer and determined to do
something to aid in the capture of the murderers. Hiding behind bushes,
she had seen the negroes dash out of the rear door of the car and run
back along the track into the darkness, and had then hurried in the
other direction, coming to this house and summoning aid.... It was a
fine story, her ride in the darkness and how people rose to come out and
help her. I made copious notes in my mind, took her name and address,
visited the conductor’s wife, who was a little distance away, and then
hurried to the nearest telephone to communicate my news.

During this conversation with the girl I made an impression on her. As
we talked I had drawn quite close and my enthusiasm for her deed had
drawn forth various approving smiles and exclamations. When I took her
address I said I should like to know more of her, and she smiled and
said: “Well, you can see me any time tomorrow.” This was Saturday night.

The _Republic_ at this time had instituted what it called a “reward for
heroism” medal to be given to whosoever should perform a truly heroic
deed during the current year within the city or its immediate suburbs.
Thinking over this girl’s deed as I went along, and wondering how I
should proceed in the matter of retaining her interest, I thought of
this medal and asked myself why it should not be given to her. She was
certainly worthy of it. Plainly she was a hero, riding thus in the
darkness and in the face of such a crime—and good-looking too!—and
eighteen! After I had reached the office and written a most glowing
account of all this for the late edition, I decided to speak to Wandell
the next day, and did. He fell in with the idea at once.

“A fine idea,” he squeaked shrilly. “Bully—we’ll do that! You’ll have to
go back, though, and see whether she’ll accept it. Sometimes these
people won’t stand for all this notoriety stuff, you know. But if she
does——By the way,” he asked quickly, “is she good-looking?”

“Sure,” I replied enthusiastically. “She’s very good-looking—a beauty, I
think.”

“Well, if that’s the case all the better. She must be made to give you a
picture. Don’t let her crawl out of that, even if you have to bring her
down here or take her to a photographer. If she accepts I’ll order the
medal tomorrow, and you can write the whole thing up. It’ll make a fine
Sunday feature, eh? Dreiser’s girl hero! What!”

This medal idea was just the thing to take me back to her, the excuse I
needed and one that ought to bring her close to me if anything could.
For the time being, I had forgotten all about Miss W—— and her charms.
She came into my mind, but it was so all-important for me to follow up
this new interest—one that I could manage quite as well as not, along
with the other. I dressed in my very best clothes the next morning,
excluding the amazing coat, and sallied forth to find my heroine. After
considerable difficulty I managed to place her in a very simple home on
what had once been a farm. Her father, who opened the door, was a German
of the most rigid and austere mien—a Lutheran, I think—her mother a
simple and pleasant-looking fat _hausfrau_. In the garish noon light my
heroine was neither so melodramatic nor so poignant as she had seemed
the night before. There was something less alive and less delicate in
her composition, mental and physical, and yet she was by no means dull.
Perhaps she lacked the excitement and the crowd. She had a peculiar
mouth, a little wide but sweet, and a most engaging smile. Incidentally,
it now developed that she had a younger sister, darker, more graceful,
almost more attractive than herself.

The two of them, as I soon found upon entering into conversation,
offered that same problem in American life that so many children of
foreign-born parents do. Although by no means poor, they were restless,
if not unhappy, in their state. The old German father was one of those
stern religionists and moralists who plainly had always held, or tried
to hold, his two children in severest check. At the same time, as was
obvious, this keen strident American life was calling to them as never
had his fatherland to him. They were both intensely alive and eager for
adventure. Never before, apparently, had they seen a reporter, never
been so close to a really truly thrilling tragedy. And Gunda—that was my
heroine’s name—had actually been a part of it—how, she could now
scarcely think. Her parents were not at all stirred by her triumph or
the publicity that attached to it. In spite of the fact that her father
owned this property and was sufficiently well-placed to maintain her in
school or idleness (American style), she was already a clerk in one of
the great stores of the city, and her sister was also preparing to go to
work, having just left school.

I cannot tell how, but in a few moments we three were engaged in a most
ardent conversation. There was an old fire-place in this house with some
blazing wood in it, and before this we sat and laughed and chattered,
while I explained just what was wanted. Their mother and father did not
even remain in the room. I could see that the younger sister was for
urging Gunda on to any gayety or flirtation, and was herself eager to
share in one. It ended by my suggesting that they both come down to
dinner with me some evening—a suggestion which they welcomed with
enthusiasm but explained that it would have to be done under the rose.
Their father was so old-fashioned that he would not allow them to take
up with any one so swiftly, would not even allow them to have any beaux
in the house. But they could meet me, and stay in town all night with
friends. Gunda laughed, and the younger sister clapped her hands for
joy.

I made a most solemn statement of what was wanted to the parents,
secured two photographs of Gunda, and departed, having arranged to see
them the following Wednesday at seven at one of the prominent corners of
the city.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER LI


CONCERNING these two girls and their odd, unsophisticated, daring point
of view and love of life, I have always had the most confused feelings.
They were crazy and starving for something different from what they
knew. What had become of all the staid and dull sobriety of their
parents in this queer American atmosphere? The old people had no
interest in or patience with any such restlessness. As for their two
girls, it would have been as easy to seduce one or both of them, in the
happy, seeking mood in which they met me, as to step off a car. Plainly
they liked me, both of them. My conquest was so easy that it detracted
from the charm. The weaker sex, in youth at least, has to be sought to
be worth while. I began to question whether I should proceed in this
matter as fast as they seemed to wish.

Now that they had made friends with me, I liked them both. When we met
the following Wednesday evening, and I had taken them to a commonplace
restaurant, I was a little puzzled to know what to do with them, rarely
having a whole evening to myself. Finally I invited them to my room,
wondering if they would come. It seemed a great adventure to me, most
daring, but I could not quite make up my mind which of the two I
preferred. Just the same they came with me, looking on the proceeding as
a great and delicious adventure. As we came along Broadway in the dark
after dinner they hung on my arms, laughing and jesting at what their
parents would think, and when we went up the dimly lighted stair, an
old, wide, squeaky flight, they chortled over the fun and mystery of it
all. The room was nothing much—the same old books, hangings and other
trifles—but it seemed to please them greatly. What pleased them most was
the fact that one could go and come without attracting any attention.
They browsed about at first, and I, never having been confronted by just
this situation before and being still backward, did little or nothing
save discuss generalities. The one I had most favored (the heroine) was
more retiring than the younger, less feverish but still gay. I could
only be with them from seven to ten-thirty, but they intimated that they
would come again when they could stay as late as I chose. The suggestion
was too obvious and I lost interest. Soon I told them I had to go back
to the office and took them to a car. A few days later I took the medal
to Gunda at the store, where she received it with much pleasure, asking
where I had been and when she was to see me again. I made an appointment
for another day, which I never kept. It meant, as I reasoned it out,
that I should have to go further with her and her sister, but not being
sufficiently impelled or courageous I dropped the whole matter. Then,
because Miss W—— now seemed more significant than ever, I returned to
her with a fuller devotion than ever before.

Owing to a driving desire to get on, to do something, to be more than I
was and have all the pleasures I craved at once, there now set in a
period of mental dissatisfaction and unrest which eventually took me out
of St. Louis and the West, and resulted in a period of stress and
distress. Sometimes I really believe that certain lives are predestined
to undergo a given group of experiences, else why the unconscionable
urge to move and be away which drives some people like the cuts of a
lash? Aside from the question of salary, there was, as I see it now,
little reason for the fierce and gnawing pains that assailed me, and
toward the last even this question of salary was not a factor; for my
employers, learning that I was about to leave, were quick enough to
offer me more money as well as definite advancement. By then, however,
my self-dissatisfaction had become so great that nothing short of a
larger salary and higher position than they could afford to give me
would have detained me. Toward the last I seemed to be obsessed by the
idea of leaving St. Louis and going East. New York—or, at least other
cities east of this one, seemed to call me far more than anything the
West had to offer.

And now, curiously, various things seemed to combine to drive or lure me
forth, things as clear in retrospect as they were indistinguishable and
meaningless then. One of these forces, aside from that of being worthy
of my new love and lifting her to some high estate which then possessed
me, was John Maxwell who had done me such an inestimable service in
Chicago when I was trying to break into the newspaper business, and who
had now arrived on the scene with the hope of connecting with St. Louis
journalism. Fat, cynical, Cyclopean John! Was ever a more Nietzschean
mind in a more amiable body! His doctrine of ruthless progress, as I now
clearly saw, was so tall and strident, whereas his personal modus
operandi was so compellingly genial, human, sympathetic. He was forever
talking about burning, slaying, shoving people out of one’s path, doing
the best thing by oneself and the like, while at the same time actually
extending a helping hand to almost everybody and doing as little to
advantage himself personally as any man I ever knew. It was all theory,
plus an inherent desire to expound. His literary admirations were of a
turgidly sentimental or romantic character, as, for instance, Jean
Valjean of _Les Misérables_, and the good bishop; _Père Goriot_,
_Camille_, poor Smike in _Nicholas Nickleby_; and, of all things, and
yet quite like him in judgment, the various novels of Hall Caine (_The
Bondman_, _The Christian_, _The Deemster_).

“My boy!” he used to say to me, with a fat and yet wholly impressive
vehemence that I could not help admiring whether I agreed with him or
not, “that character of Jean Valjean is one of the greatest in the
world—a masterpiece—and I’ll tell you why—” and he would then begin to
enlarge upon the moral beauty of Valjean carrying the wounded Marius
through the sewer, his taking up and caring for the poor degraded
mother, abandoned by the students of Paris, his gentle and forgiving
attitude toward all poverty and crime.

The amusing thing about all this was, of course, that in the next breath
he would reiterate that all men were dogs and thieves, that in all cases
one had to press one’s advantage to the limit and trust nobody, that one
must burn, cut, slay, if one wished to succeed. Once I said to him,
still under the delusion that the world might well be full of
tenderness, charity, honesty and the like: “John, you don’t really
believe all that. You’re not as hard as you say.”

“The hell I’m not! The trouble with you is that you don’t know me.
You’re just a cub yet, Theodore,” and his face wore that adorable, fat,
cynical smirk, “full of college notions of virtue and charity, and all
that guff. You think that because I helped you a little in Chicago all
men are honest, kind, and true. Well, you’ll have to stow that pretty
soon. You’re getting along now, and whatever you think other people
ought to do you’ll find it won’t be very convenient to do it
yourself—see?” And he smirked angelically once more. To me, in spite of
what he said, he seemed anything but hard or mean.

Being in hard lines, he had come to St. Louis, not at my suggestion but
at that of Dunlap and Brady, both of whom no doubt assured him that I
could secure him a position instanter. I began to think what if anything
I could do to help him, but so overawed was I still by his personality
that I felt that nothing would do for him less than a place as
copy-reader or assistant city editor—and that was a very difficult
matter indeed, really beyond my local influence. I was too young and too
inexperienced to recommend anybody for such a place, although my Chicago
friends had come to imagine that I could do anything here. I had the
foolish notion that John would speak to me about it, but so sensitive
was he, I presume, on the subject of what was due from me to him that he
thought (I am merely guessing) that I should bestir myself without any
direct word. He had been here for days, I later learned, without even
coming near me. He had gone to a hotel, and in a few days sent word by
Dunlap, with whom he was now on the most intimate terms, that he was in
town and looking for a place. I assume now that it was but the part of
decency for me to have hurried to call on him, but so different was my
position now and so hurried was I with a number of things that I never
even thought of doing it at once. I fancied that he would come to the
office with Dunlap, or that a day or two would make no difference. At
the end of the second day after Dunlap spoke to me of his being here the
latter said: “Don’t you want to come along with me and see John?”

I was delighted at the invitation and that same evening followed Dunlap
to John’s hotel room. It was a curious meeting, full of an odd
diffidence on my part and I know not what on his. From others he had
gathered the idea that I was successful here and therefore in a position
to be uppish, whereas I was really in a most humble and affectionate
frame of mind toward him. He met me with a most cynical, leering
expression, which by no means put me at case. He seemed at once
reproachful, antagonistic and contemptuous.

“Well,” he began at once, “I hear you’re making a big hit down here,
Theodore. Everything’s coming your way now, eh?”

“Oh, not so good as that, John,” I said. “I don’t think I’ve done so
wonderfully well. I hear you want to stay here; have you found anything
yet?”

“Not a thing,” he smiled. “I haven’t been trying very hard, I guess.”

I told him what I knew of St. Louis, how things went generally, and
offered to give him letters or personal introductions to McCullagh, a
managing editor on the _Chronicle_, to Wandell, and several others. He
thanked me, and then I invited him to come and live in my room, which he
declined at the time, taking instead a room next door to mine on the
same floor—largely because it was inexpensive and central and not, I am
sure, because it was near me. Here he stayed nearly a month, during
which time he doubtless made efforts to find something to do, which I
also did. Suddenly he was gone, and a little later, and much to my
astonishment, Dunlap informed me that he had concluded that I had been
instrumental in keeping him from obtaining work here! This he had
deduced not so much from anything he knew or had heard, but by some
amazing process of reversal; since I was much beholden to him and in a
position to assist him, I, by some perversion of nature, would resent
his coming and would do everything in my power to keep him out!

No event in my life ever gave me a queerer sense of being misunderstood
and defeated. Of all the people I knew, I would rather have aided
Maxwell than any one else. Because I felt so sure that I could not
recommend him for anything good enough for him, I felt ashamed to try. I
did the little I could, but after a while he left without bidding me
good-by.

But before he went there were many gatherings in his room or mine, and
always he assumed the same condescending and bantering tone toward me
that he had used in Chicago, which made me feel as though he thought my
present standing a little too good for me. And yet at times, in his more
cheerful moods, he seemed the same old John, tender, ranting, filled
with a sincere desire for the welfare of any untutored beginner, and
only so restless and irritable now because he was meshed in financial
difficulties.

At that, he attempted to do me one more service, which, although I did
not resent it very much, I completely misunderstood. This was in regard
to Miss W——, whose photograph he now saw and whose relation to me he
gathered to be serious, although what he said related more to my whole
future than to her. One day he walked into my room and saw the picture
of my love hanging on the wall. He paused first to examine it.

“Who’s this?” he inquired curiously.

I can see him yet, without coat or waistcoat, suspenders down, his fat
stomach pulled in tightly by the waistband of his trousers, his fat face
pink with health, his hair tousled on his fine round head.

“That’s the girl I’m engaged to,” I announced proudly. “I’m going to
marry her one of these days when I get on my feet.” Then, lover-like, I
began to expatiate on her charms, while he continued to study the
photograph.

“Have you any idea how old she is?” he queried, looking up with that
queer, cynical, unbelieving look of his.

“Oh, about my age.”

“Oh hell!” he said roughly. “She’s older than that. She’s five or six
years older than you. What do you want to get married for anyhow? You’re
just a kid yet. Everything’s before you. You’re only now getting a
start. Now you want to go and tie yourself up so you can’t move!”

He ambled over to the window and stared out. Then he sank comfortably
into one of my chairs, while I uttered some fine romantic bosh about
love, a home, not wanting to wander around the world all my days alone.
As I talked he contemplated me with one of those audacious smirky leers
of his, as irritating and disconcerting an expression as I have seen on
any face.

“Oh hell, Theodore!” he remarked finally, as if to sweep away all I had
said. Then after a time he added, as if addressing the world in general:
“If there’s a bigger damn fool than a young newspaper man in or out of
love, let me know. Here you are, just twenty-one, just starting out. You
come down here from Chicago and get a little start, and the first thing
you want to do is to load yourself up with a wife, and in a year or so
two or three kids. Now I know damned well,” he went on, no doubt noting
the look of easy toleration on my part, “that what I’m going to say
won’t make you like me any better, but I’m going to say it anyhow.
You’re like all these young newspaper scouts: the moment you get a start
you think you know it all. Well, Theodore, you’ve got a long time to
live and a lot of things to learn. I had something to do with getting
you into this game, and that’s the only reason I’m talking to you now.
I’d like to see you go on and not make a mistake. In the first place
you’re too young to get married, and in the second, as I said before,
that girl is five years older than you if she’s a day. I think she’s
older,” and he went over and re-examined the picture, while I
spluttered, insisting that he was crazy, that she was no more than two
years older if so much. “Along with this,” he went on, completely
ignoring my remarks, “she’s one of these middle-West girls, all right
for life out here but no good for the newspaper game or you. I’ve been
through all that myself. Just remember, my boy, that I’m ten years older
than you. She belongs to some church, I suppose?”

“Methodist,” I replied ruefully.

“I knew it! But I’m not knocking her; I’m not saying that she isn’t
pretty and virtuous, but I do say that she’s older than you, and narrow.
Why, man, you don’t know your own mind yet. You don’t know where you’ll
want to go or what you’ll want to do. In ten years from now you’ll be
thirty-two, and she’ll be thirty-seven or more, believing and feeling
things that will make you tired. You’ll never agree with her—or if you
do, so much the worse for you. What she wants is a home and children and
a steady provider, and what you really want is freedom to go and do as
you please, only you don’t know it.

“Now I’ve watched you, Theodore, and I hear what people down here say
about you, and I think you have something ahead of you if you don’t make
a fool of yourself. But if you marry now—and a conventional and narrow
woman at that, one older than you—you’re gone. She’ll cause you endless
trouble. In three or four years you’ll have children, and you’ll get a
worried, irritated point of view. Take my advice. Run with girls if you
want to, but don’t marry. Now I’ve said my say, and you can do as you
damned please.”

He smirked genially and condescendingly once more, and I felt very much
impressed and put down. After all, I feared, in spite of my slushy mood,
that what he said was true, that it would be best for me to devote
myself solely to work and study and let women alone. But also I knew
that I couldn’t.

The next time my beloved came to the city I decided to sound her on the
likelihood of my changing, differing. We were walking along a
leaf-strewn street, the red, brown, yellow and green leaves thick on the
brick walk, of a gray November afternoon.

“And what would you do then?” I asked, referring to my fear of changing,
not caring for her any longer.

She meditated for a while, kicking the leaves and staring at the ground
without looking up. Finally she surveyed me with clear appealing
blue-gray eyes.

“But you won’t,” she said. “Let’s not think of anything like that any
more. We won’t, will we?”

Her tone was so tender and appealing that it moved me tremendously. She
had this power over me, and retained it for years, of appealing to my
deepest emotions. I felt so sorry for her—for life—even then. It was as
if all that Maxwell had said was really true. She was different, older;
she might never understand me. But this craving for her—what to do about
that? All love, the fiercest passions, might cool and die out, but how
did that help me then? In the long future before me should I not regret
having given her up, never to have carried to fruition this delicious
fever? I thought so.

For weeks thereafter my thoughts were colored by the truth of all John
had said. She would never give herself to me without marriage, and here
I was, lonely and financially unable to take her, and spiritually unable
to justify my marriage to her even if I were. The tangle of life, its
unfairness and indifference to the moods and longings of any individual,
swept over me once more, weighing me down far beyond the power of
expression. I felt like one condemned to carry a cross, and very
unwilling and unhappy in doing it. The delirious painful meetings went
on and on. I suffered untold tortures from my desires and my dreams. And
they were destined never to be fulfilled.... Glorious fruit that hangs
upon the vine too long, and then decays!

Another thing that happened at this time and made a great impression,
tending more firmly than even Maxwell’s remarks to alter my point of
view and make me feel that I must leave St. Louis and go on, was the
arrival in the city of my brother Paul, who, as the star of a claptrap
melodrama entitled “The Danger Signal,” now put in an appearance. He was
one of my four brothers now out in the world making their own way and of
them all by far the most successful. I had not seen him since my
newspaper days in Chicago two years before. He was then in another play,
“The Tin Soldier,” by the reigning farceur, Hoyt. _His_ had not been the
leading rôle at that time, but somehow his skill as a comedian had
pushed him into that rôle. Previously he had leading parts in such
middle-class plays as “A Midnight Bell,” “The Two Johns” and other
things of that sort, as well as being an end man in several famous
minstrel shows.

Now in this late November or early December, walking along South Sixth
Street in the region of the old Havlin Theater, where all the standard
melodramas of the time played, I was startled to see his face and name
staring at me from a billboard. “Ah,” I thought, “my famous brother! Now
these people will know whether our family amounts to anything or not!
Wait’ll they hear he is my brother!”

His picture on the billboard recalled so many pleasant memories of him,
his visits home, his kindness to and intense love for my mother, how in
my tenth year he had talked of my being a writer (Heaven only knows
why), and how once on one of his visits home, when I was fourteen, he
had set me to the task of composing a humorous essay which he felt sure
I could write! Willingly and singingly I essayed it, but when I chose
the ancient topic of the mule and its tendency to kick his face fell,
and he tried to show me in the gentlest way possible how hackneyed that
was and to put me on the track of doing something original.... Now after
all this time, and scarcely knowing whether or not he knew I was here, I
was to see him once more, to make clear to him my worldly improvement. I
do not say it to boast, but I honestly think there was more joy in the
mere thought of seeing him again than there was in showing him off and
getting a little personal credit because of his success.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER LII


AS I look back upon my life now I realize clearly that of all the
members of our family subsequent to my mother’s death, the only one who,
without quite understanding me, still sympathized with my intellectual
and artistic point of view—and that most helpfully and at times
practically—was my brother Paul. Despite the fact that all my other
brothers were much better able intellectually than he to appreciate the
kind of thing I was tending toward mentally, his was the sympathy that
buoyed me up. I do not think he understood, even in later years (long
after I had written _Sister Carrie_, for instance), what I was driving
at. His world was that of the popular song, the middle-class actor or
comedian, the middle-class comedy, and such humorous esthetes of the
writing world as Bill Nye, Petroleum V. Nasby, and the authors of the
_Spoopendyke Papers_ and _Samantha at Saratoga_. As far as I could make
out—and I say this in no lofty, condescending spirit—he was full of
simple middle-class romance, middle-class humor, middle-class
tenderness, and middle-class grossness—all of which I am very free to
say I admire. After all, we cannot all be artists, statesmen, generals,
thieves or financiers. Some of us, the large majority, have to be just
plain everyday middle-class, and a very comfortable state it is under
any decent form of government.

But there is so very much more to be said of him, things which
persistently lift him in my memory to a height far more appealing and
important than hundreds of greater and surer fame. For my brother was a
humorist of so tender and delicate a mold that to speak of him as a mere
middle-class artist or middle-class thinker and composer, would be to do
him a gross injustice and miss the entire significance and flavor of his
being. His tenderness and sympathy, a very human appreciation of the
weakness and errors as well as the toils and tribulations of most of us,
was his most outstanding and engaging quality and gave him a very
definite force and charm. Admitting that he had an intense, possibly an
undue fondness for women (I have never been able to discover just where
the dividing line is to be drawn in such matters), a frivolous,
childish, horse-play sense of humor at times, still he had other
qualities that were positively adorable. That sunny disposition, that
vigorous, stout body and nimble mind, those smiling sweet blue eyes,
that air of gayety and well-being that was with him nearly all the time,
even at the most trying times! Life seemed to bubble in him. Hope sprang
upward like a fountain. You felt in him a capacity to do (in his limited
field), an ability to achieve, whether he was succeeding at the moment
or not. Never having the least power to interpret anything in a high
musical way, still he was always full of music of a tender, sometimes
sad, sometimes gay kind, the ballad-maker of a nation. For myself, I was
always fascinated by this skill of his, the lovable art that attempts to
interpret sorrow and pleasure in terms of song, however humble. And on
the stage, how, in a crude way, by mere smile and gesture, he could make
an audience laugh! I have seen houses crowded to the ceiling with
middle- or lower-class people, shop girls and boys, factory hands and
the like, who tittered continuously at his every move. He seemed to
radiate a kind of comforting sunshine and humor without a sharp edge or
sting (satire was entirely beyond him), a kind of wilding asininity,
your true clown in cap and bells, which caused even my morbid soul to
chortle by the hour. Already he was a composer of a certain type of
melodramatic and tearful yet land-sweeping songs (_The Letter That Never
Came_, _The Pardon Came Too Late_, _I Believe It for My Mother Told Me
So_, _The Bowery_). (Let those who wish to know him better read of him
in _Twelve Men: My Brother Paul_.)

Well, this was my brother Paul, the same whom I have described as stout,
gross, sensual, and all of these qualities went hand-in-hand. I have no
time here for more than the briefest glimpse, the faintest echo. I
should like to write a book about him—the wonderful, the tender! But now
he was coming to St. Louis, and in my youthful, vainglorious way I was
determined to show him what I was. He should be introduced to Peter,
Dick and Rodenberger, my cronies. I would have a feast in my room after
the theater in his honor. I would give another, a supper at Faust’s,
then the leading restaurant of St. Louis, of a gay Bohemian character,
and invite Wandell, Dunlap, my managing editor (I can never think of his
name), Bassford, the dramatic editor, and Peter, Dick and Rodenberger. I
proposed to bring my love to his theater some afternoon or evening and
introduce him to her.

I hurried to the office of the _Globe_ to find Dick and Peter and tell
them my news and plans. They were very much for whatever it was I wanted
to do, and eager to meet Paul of course. Also, within the next
twenty-four hours I had written to Miss W——, and told Wandell, Bassford,
the managing editor and nearly everybody else. I dropped in at Faust’s
to get an estimate on the kind of dinner I thought he would like, having
the head-waiter plan it for me, and then eagerly awaited his arrival.

Sunday morning came, and I called at the theater at about eleven, and
found him on the stage of this old theater entirely surrounded by trunks
and scenery. There was with him at the moment a very petite actress, the
female star of the company, who, as I later learned, was one of his
passing flames. He was stout as ever, and dressed in the most engaging
Broadway fashion: a suit of good cloth and smart cut, a fur coat, a high
hat and a gold-headed cane—in short, all the earmarks of prosperity and
comfort. What a wonderful thing he and this stage world, even this world
of claptrap melodrama, seemed to me at the time. I felt on the instant
somehow as though I were better established in the world than I thought,
to be thus connected with one who traveled all over the country. The
whole world seemed to come closer because of him.

“Hello!” he called, plainly astonished. “Where’d you come from?” and
then seeing that I was better dressed and poised mentally than he had
ever known me, he looked me over in an odd, slightly doubting way, as a
stranger might, and then introduced me to his friend. Seeing him
apparently pleased by my arrival and eager to talk with me, she quickly
excused herself, saying she had to go on to her hotel; then he fell to
asking me questions as to how I came to be here, how I was getting
along. I am sure he was slightly puzzled and possibly disturbed by my
sharp change from a shy, retiring boy to one who examined him with the
chill and weighing eye of the newspaper man. To me, all of a sudden, he
was not merely one whom I had to like because he was my brother or one
who knew more about life than I—rather less, I now thought, quickly
gathering his intellectual import, but because of his character solely.
I might like or dislike that as I chose. He reminded me now a great deal
of my mother, and I could not help recalling how loving and generous he
had always been with her. Instantly he appealed to me as the simple,
home-loving mother-boy that he was. It brought him so close to me that I
was definitely and tenderly drawn to him. I could feel how fine and
generous he really was. Even then although I doubt very much whether he
liked me at first, finding me so brash and self-sufficient, still, so
simple and communistic were the laws by which his charming mind worked,
he at once accepted me as a part of the family and so of himself, a
brother, one of mother’s boys. How often have I heard him say in regard
to some immediate relative concerning whom an acrimonious debate might
be going forward, “After all, he’s your brother, isn’t he?” or “She’s
your sister,” as though mere consanguinity should dissolve all
dissatisfactions and rages! Isn’t there something humanly sweet about
that, in the face of all the cold, decisive conclusions of this world?


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER LIII


WELL, such was my brother Paul and now he was here. Never before was he
so much my dear brother as now. So generally admirable was he that I
should have liked him quite as much had he been no relative. After a few
moments of explanation as to my present state I offered to share my room
with him for the period of his stay, but he declined. Then I offered to
take him to lunch, but he was too hurried or engaged. He agreed to come
to my room after the show, however, and offered me a box for myself and
my new friends. So much faith did I have in the good sense of Peter,
Dick and Rodenberger, their certainty of appreciating the charm of a man
like Paul, that I brought them to the theater this same night, although
I knew the show itself must be a mess. There was a scenic engine in this
show, with a heroine lying across the rails! My dear brother was a comic
switchman or engineer in this act, evoking roars of low-brow laughter by
his antics and jokes.

I shall never forget how my three friends took all this. Now that he was
actually here they were good enough to take him into their affectionate
consideration on my account, almost as though he belonged to them. He
was “Dreiser’s brother Paul,” even “Dear old Paul” afterwards. Because
working conditions favored us that night we all three descended on the
Havlin together, sitting in the box while the show was in progress but
spending all the intermissions in Paul’s dressingroom or on the back of
the stage. Having overcome his first surprise and possibly dislike of my
brash newspaper manner, he was now all smiles and plainly delighted with
my friends, Rodenberger and Peter, especially the latter, appealing to
him as characters not unlike himself, individuals whom he could
understand. And in later years, when I was in New York, he was always
asking after them and singing their praises. Dick also came in for a
share of his warm affection, but in a slower way. He thought Dick
amusing but queer, like a strange animal of some kind. On subsequent
tours which took him to St. Louis he was always in touch with these
three. Above all things, the waggish grotesqueries of McCord’s mind
moved him immensely. Peter’s incisive personality and daring
unconventionality seemed to fascinate Paul. “Wonderful boy, that,” he
used to say to me, almost as though he were confiding a deep secret.
“You’ll hear from him yet, mark my word. You can’t lose a kid like
that.” And time proved quite plainly that he was right.

During the play Paul sang one of his own compositions, _The Bowery_. It
was an exceptional comic song, quite destructive of the good name of the
Bowery forever, so much so that ten years later the merchants and
property owners of that famous thoroughfare petitioned to have the name
of the street changed, on the ground that the jibes involved in the song
had destroyed its character as an honest business street forever. So
much for the import of a silly ballad, and the passing song—writer. What
are the really powerful things in this world anyhow?

After the show we all adjourned to some scowsy music hall in the
vicinity of this old theater, which Dick insisted by reason of its very
wretchedness would amuse Paul, although I am sure it did not (he was
never a satirist). And thence to my room, where I had the man who
provided the midnight lunch for the workers at the _Globe_ spread a
small feast. I had no piano, but Paul sang, and Peter gave an imitation
of a street player who could manipulate at one and the same time a drum,
mouth-organ and accordion. We had to beat my good brother on the back to
keep him from choking.

But it was during a week of breakfasts together that the first
impressive conversations in regard to New York occurred, conversations
that finally imbued me with the feeling that I should never be quite
satisfied until I had reached there. Whether this was due to the fact
that I now told him about my present state and ambitions or dreams and
my somewhat remarkable success here, or that he was now coming to the
place where he was able to suggest ways and means and at the same time
indulge the somewhat paternalistic streak in himself, I do not know, but
during the week he persisted in the most florid descriptions of New York
and my duty to go there, its import to me intellectually and otherwise;
and finally he convinced me that I should never reach my true
intellectual stature unless I did. Other places might be very good, he
insisted, they all had their value, but there was only one place where
one might live in a keen and vigorous way, and that was New York. It was
_the_ city, the only cosmopolitan city, a wonder-world in itself. It was
great, wonderful, marvelous, the size, the color, the tang, the beauty.

He went on to explain that the West was narrow, slow, not really alive.
In New York one might always do, think and act more freely than anywhere
else. The air itself was tonic. All really ambitious people, people who
were destined to do or be anything, eventually drifted there—editors,
newspaper men, actors, playwrights, song-writers, musicians,
money-makers. He pointed to himself as a case in point, how he had
ventured there, a gawky stripling doing a monologue, and how one Harry
Minor, now of antique “Bowery Theater” fame, had seized on him, carried
him along and forwarded him in every way. Some one was certain to do as
much for me, for any one of ability. In passing, he now confided that
only recently, from having been the star song-writer for a well-known
New York music publisher (Willis Woodward), he had succeeded, with two
other men, in organizing a music publishing company in which he had a
third interest, and which was to publish his songs as well as those of
others and was pledged to pay him an honest royalty (a thing which he
insisted had not so far been done) as well as a full share as partner.
In addition, under the friendly urging of an ambitious manager, he was
now writing a play, to be known as “The Green Goods Man,” in which
within a year or two he would appear as star. Also he reminded me that
our sister E——, who had long since moved to New York (as early as 1885),
was now living in West Fifteenth Street, where she would be glad to
receive me. He was always in New York in the summer, living with this
sister. “Why not come down there next summer when I am there off the
road, and look it over?”

As he talked, New York came nearer than ever it had before, and I could
see the light of conviction and enthusiasm in his eye. It was plain, now
that he had seen me again, that he wanted me to succeed. My friends had
already sung my praises to him, although he himself could see that I was
fast emerging from my too shy youth. St. Louis might be well enough, and
Chicago—but New York! New York! One who had not seen it but who was
eager to see the world could not help but sniff and prick up his ears.

It was during this week that I gave the supper previously mentioned, and
took my fiancée to meet my brother. I am satisfied that she liked him,
or was rather amused by him, not understanding the least detail of his
life or the character of the stage, while the sole comment that I could
get out of him was that she was charming but that if he were in my place
he would not think of marrying yet—a statement which had more light
thrown on it years later by his persistent indifference to if not
dislike of her, although he was always too courteous and mindful of
others to express himself openly to me.... All of which is neither here
nor there.

My glorious supper turned out to be somewhat of a failure. Without
knowing it, I was trying to harmonize elements which would not mix, at
least not on such a short notice. The true Bohemianism and at the same
time exclusive camaraderie of such youths as Peter, Dick and
Rodenberger, and the rather stilted intellectual sufficiency of my
editorial friends and superiors of the _Republic_, and the utter
innocence and naïveté of Paul himself, proved too much. The dinner was
stilted, formal, boring. My dear brother was as barren of intellectual
interests as a child. No current problem such as might have interested
these editorial men had the smallest interest for him or had ever been
weighed by him. He could not discuss them, although I fancy if we had
turned to prize-fighters or baseball heroes or comic characters in
general he would have done well enough. Indeed his and their thoughts
were so far apart that they found him all but dull. On the other hand,
Peter, Dick and Rodenberger finding Paul delightful were not in the
least interested in the others, looking upon them as executives and of
no great import. Between these groups I was lost, not knowing how to
harmonize them. Struck all at once by the ridiculousness and futility of
my attempt, I could not talk gayly or naturally, and the more I tried to
bring things round the worse they became. Finally I was on pins and
needles, until the whole thing was saved by Wandell remembering early
that he had something to do at the office. Seizing their opportunity,
the managing editor and the dramatic editor went with him. The others
and I now attempted to rally, but it was too late. A half-hour later we
broke up, and I accompanied my brother to his hotel door. He made none
but pleasant comments, but it was all such a fizzle that I could have
wept.

By Sunday morning he was gone again, and then my life settled into its
old routine, apparently—only it did not. Now more than ever I felt
myself to be a flitting figure in this interesting but humdrum local
world, comfortable enough perhaps but with no significant future for me.
The idea of New York as a great and glowing center had taken root.

Some other things tended to move me from St. Louis. Only recently
Michaelson, who had come to St. Louis to obtain my aid in securing a
place, had been harping on the advantage of being a country editor, the
ease of the life, its security. He was out of work and eager to leave
the city. I think he was convinced that I was financially in a position
to buy a half interest in some fairly successful country paper (which I
was not), while he took the other half interest on time. Anyway I had
been thinking of this as a way of getting out of the horrible grind of
newspaperdom; only this mood of my brother seemed to reach down to the
very depths of my being, depths hitherto not plumbed by anything, and
put New York before me as a kind of ultimate certainty. I must go there
at some time or other! meanwhile it might be a good thing for me to run
a country paper. It might make me some money, give me station and
confidence....

At the same time, in the face of my growing estimate of myself, backed
by the plaudits of such men as Peter and Dick (who were receiving twice
my salary), to say nothing of the assurance of my brother that I had
that mysterious thing, personality, I was always cramped for cash, and
there was no sign on the part of my employers that I would ever be worth
very much more to them. Toward the very last, as I have said, they
changed, but then it was too late. I might write and write, page
specials every week, assignments of all kinds, theatrical and sport
reviews at times—and still, after all the evidence that I could be of
exceptional service to them, twenty-two or -three dollars was all I
could get. And dogging my heels was Michaelson, a cheerful, comforting
soul in the main, but a burden. It has always been a matter of great
interest to me to observe how certain types, parasites, barnacles,
decide that they are to be aided or strengthened by another, and without
a “by-your-leave” or any other form or courtesy to “edge in,” bring
their trunk, and make themselves at home. Although I never really liked
Michaelson very much, here he was, idling about, worrying about a job or
his future, living in my room toward the last, eating his meals (at
least his breakfasts) with me, and talking about the country, the charm,
ease and profit of editing a country newspaper!

Now, of all the people in this dusty world, I can imagine no one less
fitted than myself, temperamentally or in any other way, to edit a
country paper. The intellectual limitations of such a world! My own
errant disposition and ideas, my contempt for and revolt against the
standardized and clock-work motions and notions of the average man and
woman! In six months I should have been arrested or drummed out by the
preacher, the elders, and all the other worthies for miles around. Let
sleeping dogs lie. The louder all conventionalists snore the better—for
me anyhow.

But here I was listening to Michaelson’s silly drivel and wondering if a
country newspaper might not offer an escape from the humdrum and
clamlike existence into which I seemed to have fallen. From December on
this cheerful mediocrity, of about the warmth and intelligence of a
bright collie, was telling me daily how wonderful I was and that I
“ought to get out of here and into something which would really profit
me and get me somewhere”—into the editorship of a country weekly!

What jocular fates trifled with my sense of the reasonable or the
ridiculous at this time I do not know, but I was interested—largely, I
presume, because I was too wandering and nebulous to think of anything
else to do. This cheerful soul finally ended by indicating a paper—the
Weekly Something of Grand Rapids, Ohio (not Michigan), near his father’s
farm (see pp. 247-255, _A Hoosier Holiday_), which, according to him,
was just the thing and should offer a complete solution for all our
material and social aspirations in this world. By way of this paper, or
some other of its kind, one might rise to any height, political or
social, state or national. I might become a state assemblyman from my
county, a senator, a congressman, or United States senator! When you
owned a country paper you were an independent person (imagine the editor
of a country paper being independent of the conventions of his
community!), not a poor harried scribe on a city paper, uncertain from
week to week whether you were to be retained any longer. There were the
delights of a country life, the sweet simplicity of a country town, away
from the noise and streets and gaudy, shabby nothingness of a great
city. ... As I listened to the picture of his native town, his father’s
farm, the cows, pigs, chickens, how we could go there and live for a
while, my imagination mounted to a heaven of unadulterated success,
peace, joy. In my mind I had already rented or bought a small vine-clad
cottage in Grand Rapids, Ohio, where, according to Michaelson, was a
wonderful sparkling rapids to be seen glimmering in the moonlight, a
railroad which went into Toledo within an hour, fertile farmland all
about, both gas and oil recently struck, making the farmers prosperous
and therefore in the mood for a first-class newspaper such as we would
edit. Imagine sparkling rapids glimmering in the moonlight listed as a
financial asset of a country paper!


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER LIV


MY thoughts being now turned, if vaguely, to the idea of rural life and
editing a country newspaper, although I really did not believe that I
could succeed at that, I talked and talked, to Michaelson, to my future
wife, to Dick and Peter, in a roundabout, hinting way, developing all
sorts of theories as to the possible future that awaited me. To buoy up
my faith in myself, I tried to make Miss W—— feel that I was a personage
and would do great things.... How nature would ever get on without total
blindness, or at least immense credulity on the part of its creatures, I
cannot guess. Certainly if women in their love period had any more sense
than the men they would not be impressed with the boshy dreams of such
swains as myself. Either they cannot help themselves or they must want
to believe. Nature must want them to believe. How the woman who married
me could have been impressed by my faith in myself at this period is
beyond my reasoning, and yet she was impressed, or saw nothing better in
store for her than myself.

That she was so impressed, and that I, moved by her affection for me or
my own desire to possess her, was impelled to do something to better my
condition, was obvious. Hints thrown out at the _Republic_ office, to my
sponsor Wandell in particular, that I might leave producing nothing, I
decided sometime during January and February, 1893, to take up
Michaelson’s proposition, although I did not see how, other than by
gross luck, it could come to anything. Neither of us had any money to
speak of, and yet we were planning to buy a country newspaper. For a few
days before starting we debated this foolish matter and then I sent him
to his home town to look over the field there and report, which he
immediately did, writing most glowing accounts of an absolutely
worthless country paper there, which he was positive we could secure for
a song and turn into a paying proposition at once. I cannot say that I
believed this, and yet I went because I felt the need of something
different. And all the time the tug of that immense physical desire
toward my beloved which, were there any such thing as sanity in life,
might have been satisfied without any great blow to society, was holding
me as by hooks of steel. It was this conflict between the need to go and
the wish to stay that tortured me. Yet I went. I had the pain of
separating from her in this mood, realizing that youth was slipping
away, that in the uncertainty of all things there might never be a happy
fruition to our love (and there was not). And yet I went.

I bade her a final farewell the Sunday night before my departure. I
hinted at all sorts of glorious achievements as well as all possible
forms of failure. Lover-wise, I was tremendously impressed with the
sterling worth and connections of this girl, the homely, conventional
and prosaic surroundings. My unfitness for fulfilling her dreams
tortured me. As I could plainly see, she was for life as it had been
lived by billions, by those who interpret it as a matter of duty,
simplicity, care and thrift. I think she saw before her a modest home in
which would be children, enough money to clothe them decently, enough
money to entertain a few friends, and eventually to die and be buried
respectably. On the other hand, I was little more than a pulsing force,
with no convictions, no definite theories or plans. In my sky the latest
cloud of thought or plan was the great thing. Not I but destiny, over
which I had no control, had me in hand. I felt, or thought I felt, the
greatest love ... while within me was a voice which said: “What a liar!
What a pretender! You will satisfy yourself, make your own way as best
you can. Each new day will be a clean slate for you, no least picture of
the past thereon—none, at least, which might not be quickly wiped away.
Any beautiful woman would satisfy you.” Still I suffered torture for her
and myself, and left the next day, lacerated by the postponement, the
defeated desire for happiness in love.

My attitude on leaving the _Republic_ was one of complete indifference,
coupled with a kind of satisfaction at the last moment that, after
having seemed previously totally indifferent to my worth, the city
editor, the managing editor, and even the publisher, seemed suddenly to
feel that if I could be induced to stay I might prove of greater value
to them than thus far I had—from a cash point of view. And so they made
a hearty if belated effort to detain me. Indeed on my very sudden
announcement only a few days before my departure that I was going, my
city editor expressed great regret, asked me not to act hastily, told me
he proposed to speak to the editor-in-chief. But this did not interest
me any more. I was down on the _Republic_ for the way it had treated me.
Why hadn’t they done something for me months ago? That afternoon as I
was leaving the building on an assignment, the managing editor caught me
and wanted to know of my plans, said if I would stay he believed that
soon a better place in the editorial department could be made for me.
Having already written Michaelson that I would soon join him, however, I
now felt it impossible not to leave. The truth is I really wanted to go
and now that I had brought myself to this point, I did not want to
retreat. Besides, there was a satisfaction in refusing these belated
courtesies. The editor said that if I were really going the publisher
would be glad to give me a general letter of introduction which might
stand me in good stead in other cities. True enough, on the Monday on
which I left, having gone to the office to say farewell, I was met by
the publisher, who handed me a letter of introduction. It was of the “To
whom it might concern” variety and related my labors and capacities in
no vague words. I might have used this letter to advantage in many a
strait, but never did. Rather, by some queer inversion of thought, I
concluded that it was somewhat above my capacity, said more for me than
I deserved, and might secure for me some place which I could not fill.
For over a year I carried it about in my pocket, often when I was
without a job and with only a few dollars in my pockets, and still I did
not use it. Why, I have often wondered since. Little as I should
understand such a thing in another, so little do I now understand this
in myself.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER LV


THAT evening at seven I carried my bags down to the great Union Station,
feeling that I was a failure. Other men had money; they need not thus go
jerking about the world seeking a career. So many youths and maids had
all that was needful to their case and comfort arranged from the
beginning. They did not need to fret about the making of a bare living.
The ugly favoritism of life which piles comforts in the laps of some
while snatching the smallest crumb of satisfaction from the lips of
others was never more apparent to me. I was in a black despair, and made
short work of getting into my berth. For a long time I stared at dark
fields flashing by, punctuated by lamps in scattered cottages, the
gloomy and lonely little towns of Illinois and Indiana. Then I slept.

I was aroused by a ray of sunshine in my eyes. I lifted one of my blinds
and saw the cornfields of Northern Ohio, the brown stumps of last year’s
crop protruding through the snow. Commonplace little towns, the small
brown or red railway stations with the adjoining cattle-runs, and tall
gas-well derricks protruding out of dirty, snowless soil, made me
realize that I was approaching the end of my journey. I found that I had
ample time to shave, dress and breakfast in the adjoining buffet—a thing
I proposed to do if it proved the last pretentious, liberal, courageous
deed of my life.

For I was not too well provided with cash, and was I not leaving
civilization? Though I had but a hundred dollars, might not my state
soon be much worse? I have often smiled since over the awe in which I
then held the Pullman car, its porter, conductor, and all that went with
it. To my inexperienced soul it seemed to be the acme of elegance and
grandeur. Could life offer anything more than the privilege of riding
about the world in these mobile palaces? And here was I this sunny
winter morning with enough money to indulge in a breakfast in one of
these grand ambling chambers, though if I kept up this reckless pace
there was no telling where I should end.

I selected a table adjoining one at which sat two drummers who talked of
journeys far and wide, of large sales of binders and reapers and the
condition of trade. They seemed to me to be among the most fortunate of
men, high up in the world as positions go, able to steer straight and
profitable courses for themselves. Because they had half a broiled
spring chicken, I had one, and coffee and rolls and French fried
potatoes, as did they, feeling all the while that I was indulging in
limitless grandeur. At one station at which the train stopped some
poor-looking farmer boys in jeans and “galluses” and wrinkled hats
looking up at me with interest as I ate, I stared down at them, hoping
that I should be taken for a millionaire to whom this was little more
than a wearisome commonplace. I felt fully capable of playing the part
and so gave the boys a cold and repressive glance, as much as to say,
Behold! I assured myself that the way to establish my true worth was to
make every one else feel small by comparison.

The town of Grand Rapids lay in the extreme northwestern portion of Ohio
on the Maumee, a little stream which begins somewhere west of Fort
Wayne, Indiana, and runs northeast to Toledo, emptying into Lake Erie.
The town was traversed by this one railroad, which began at St. Louis
and ended at Toledo, and consisted of a number of small frame houses and
stores, with a few brick structures of one and two stories. I had not
arranged with Michaelson that he should meet me at any given time,
having been uncertain as to the time of my departure from St. Louis, and
so I had to look him up. As I stepped down at the little depot. I noted
the small houses with snow-covered yards, the bare trees and the glimpse
of rolling country which I caught through the open spaces between. There
was the river, wide and shallow, flowing directly through the heart of
the town and tumbling rapidly and picturesquely over gray stones. I was
far more concerned as to whether I should sometime be able to write a
poem or a story about this river than I was to know if a local weekly
could subsist here. And after the hurry and bustle of St. Louis, the
town did not impress me. I felt now that I had made a dreadful mistake
and wondered why I had been so foolish as to give up the opportunities
suggested by my friends on the _Republic_, and my sweetheart, when I
might have remained and married her under the new editorial conditions
proffered me.

Yet I walked on to the main corner and inquired where my friend lived,
then out a country road indicated to me as leading toward his home. I
found an old rambling frame house, facing the Maumee River, with a
lean-to and kitchen and springhouse, corncribs, a barn twice the size of
the house, and smaller buildings, all resting comfortably on a rise of
ground. Apple and pear trees surrounded it, now leafless in the wind. A
curl of smoke rose from the lean-to and told me where the cookstove was.
As I entered the front gate I felt the joy of a country home. It told of
simple and plain things, food, warmth, comfort, minds content with
routine. Michaelson appeared at the door and greeted me most
enthusiastically. He introduced me to his family with the exuberant
youthfulness of a schoolboy.

I met the father, a little old dried-up quizzical man, who looked at me
over his glasses in a wondering way and rubbed his mouth with the back
of his hand. I met the mother, small, wizened, middle-aged, looking as
though she had gone through a thousand worries. Then I met Michaelson’s
wife, a dark, chubby, brown-skinned woman, stocky and not
over-intelligent. They asked me to make myself at home, listened to an
account of my experiences in getting there, and then Michaelson
volunteered to show me about the place.

My mind revolted at the thought of such a humdrum life as this for
myself, though I was constantly touched by its charm—for others. I
followed the elder Mrs. Michaelson into the lean-to and watched her
cook, went with Michaelson to the barn to look over the live stock and
returned to talk with Michaelson senior about the prospects of the
Republican party in Ohio. He was much interested in a man named
McKinley, a politician of Ohio, who had been a congressman for years and
who was now being talked of as the next candidate of the Republican
party for the Presidency. I had scarcely heard of him up to that time,
but I gave my host my opinion, such as it was. We sat about the big drum
sheet-iron stove, heated by natural gas, then but newly discovered and
piped in that region. After dinner I proposed to my friend that we go
into the village and inspect the printing plant which he had said was
for sale. We walked along the road discussing the possibilities, and it
seemed to me as we walked that he was not as enthusiastic as he had been
in St. Louis.

“I’ve been looking at this fellow’s plant,” he said vaguely, “and I
don’t know whether I want to give him two hundred down for it. He hasn’t
got anything. That old press he has is in pretty bad shape, and his type
is all worn down.”

“Can we get it for two hundred?” I asked innocently.

“Sure, two hundred down. I wouldn’t think of giving him more. All he
wants now is enough to get out of here, some one to take it off his
hands. He can’t run it.”

We went to the office of the _Herald_, a long dark loft over a feed
store, and found there a press and some stands of type, and a table
before the two front windows, which looked west. The place was unlighted
except by these windows and two in the back, and contained no provision
for artificial light except two or three tin kerosene lamps. Slazey, the
youthful editor, was not in. We walked about and examined the contents
of the room, all run down. The town was small and slow, and even an
idealist could see that there was small room here for a career.

Presently the proprietor returned, and I saw a sad specimen of the
country editor of those days: sleepy, sickly-looking, with a spare,
gaunt face and a head which had the appearance of an egg with the point
turned to the back. His hair was long and straight and thin, the back
part of it growing down over his dusty coat-collar. He wore a pair of
baggy trousers of no shape or distinguishable color, and his coat and
waistcoat were greasy. He extended a damp, indifferent hand to me.

“I hear you want to sell out,” I said.

“Yes, I’m willing to sell,” he replied sadly.

“Do you mind showing us what you have here?”

He went about mechanically, and pointed out the press and type and some
paper he had on hand.

“Let me see that list of subscribers you showed me the other day,” said
Michaelson, who now seemed eager to convince himself that there might be
something in this affair.

Slazey brought it out from an old drawer and together we examined it,
spreading it out on the dusty table and looking at the names checked off
as paid. There were not more than a thousand. Some of them had another
mark beside the check, and this excited my curiosity.

“What’s this cross here for?”

“That’s the one that’s paid for this year.”

“Isn’t this this year’s list?”

“No. I just thought I’d check up the new payments on the old list. I
haven’t had time to make out a new one.”

Our faces fell. The names checked with a cross did not aggregate five
hundred.

“I’ll tell you what we’d better do,” observed Michaelson heavily,
probably feeling that I had become suddenly depressed. “Suppose we go
around and see some of the merchants and ask them if they’ll support us
with advertising?”

I agreed, feeling all the while that the whole venture was ridiculous,
and together we went about among the silent stores, talking with
conservative men, who represented all that was discouraging and
wearisome in life. Here they stood all day long calculating in pennies
and dimes, whereas the city merchant counted in hundreds and thousands.
It was dispiriting. Think of living in a place like this, among such
people!

“I might give a good paper my support,” said one, a long, lean,
sanctimonious man who looked as though he had narrow notions and a firm
determination to rule in his small world. “But it’s mighty hard to make
a paper that would suit this community. We’re religious and hard-working
here, and we like the things that interest religious and hard-working
people. Course if it was run right it might pay pretty well, but I dunno
as ’twould neither. You never can tell.”

I saw that he would be one hard customer to deal with anyhow. If there
were many like him—— The poor, thin-blooded, calculating world which he
represented frightened me.

“How much advertising do you think you could give to a paper that was
‘run’ right?”

“Well, that depends,” he said gloomily and disinterestedly. “I’d have to
see how it was run first. Some weeks I might give more than others.”

Michaelson nudged me and we left.

“I forgot to tell you,” he said, “that he’s a Baptist and a Republican.
He’d expect you to run it in favor of those institutions if you got his
support. But all the men around town won’t feel that way.”

In the dusty back room of a drugstore we found a chemist who did not
know whether a weekly newspaper was of any value to him, and could not
contribute more than fifty cents a week in advertising if it were. The
proprietor of the village hotel, a thick-set, red-faced man with the air
of a country evil-doer, said that he did not see that a local newspaper
was particularly valuable to him. He might advertise, but it would be
more as a favor than anything else.

I began to sum up the difficulties of our position. We should be
handicapped, to begin with, by a wretched printing outfit. We should be
beholden to a company of small, lean-living, narrow men who would take
offense at the least show of individuality and cut us off entirely from
support. We should have to busy ourselves gathering trivial items of
news, dunning hard-working, indifferent farmers for small amounts of
money, and reduce all our thoughts and ambitions to the measure of this
narrow world. I saw myself dying by inches. It gave me the creeps. Youth
and hope were calling.

“I don’t see this,” I said to myself. “It’s horrible. I should die.” To
Michaelson I said: “Suppose we give up our canvassing for today?”

“We might as well,” he replied. “There’s a paper over at Bowling Green
for sale, and it’s a better paper. We might go over in a day or two and
look at it. We might as well go home now.”

I agreed, and we turned down a street that led to the road, meditating.
I knew nothing of my destiny, but I knew that it had little to do with
this. These great wide fields, many of them already sown to wheat under
the snow, these hundreds of oil or gas-well derricks promising a new
source of profit to many, the cleanly farmhouses and neatly divided
farms all appealed to me, but this world was not for me. I was thinking
of something different, richer, more poignant, less worthy possibly,
more terrible, more fruitful for the moods and the emotions. What could
these bleak fields offer? I thought of St. Louis, the crowded streets,
the vital offices of the great papers, their thrashing presses, the
hotels, the theaters, the trains. What, bury myself here? I thought of
the East—New York possibly, at least Cleveland, Buffalo, Pittsburgh,
Philadelphia.

“I like the country, but it’s a hard place to make a living, isn’t it?”
I finally said.

“Yes,” he assented gloomily. “I’ve never been able to get anything out
of it—but I haven’t done very well in the city either.”

I sensed the mood of an easily defeated man.

“I’m so used to the noise and bustle of the streets that these fields
seem lonely,” I said.

“Yes, but you might get over that in time, don’t you think?”

Never, I thought, but did not say so; instead I said: “That’s a
beautiful sky, isn’t it?” and he looked blankly to where a touch of
purple was creeping into the background of red and gold.

We reached the house at dusk. Going through the gate I said: “I don’t
see how I can go into this with you, Mich. There isn’t enough in it.”

“Well, don’t worry about it any more tonight. I’d rather the girl
wouldn’t know. We’ll talk it over in the morning.”


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER LVI


DISHEARTENING as this village and country life might seem as a permanent
field of endeavor, it was pleasing enough as a spectacle or as the scene
of a vacation. Although it was late February when I came and there was
snow on the ground, a warm wind came in a day or two and drove most of
it away. A full moon rose every night in the east and there was a sense
of approaching Spring. Before the charming old farmhouse flowed the
wonderful little Maumee River, dimpling over stones and spreading out
wide, as though it wished to appear much more than it was. There is
madness in moonlight, and there is madness in that chemical compound
which is youth. Here in this simple farming region, once free of the
thought that by any chance I might be compelled to remain here, I felt
strangely renewed and free as a bird, though at the same time there was
an undercurrent of sadness, not only for myself but for life itself, the
lapse and decay of things, the impossibility of tasting or knowing more
than a fraction of the glories and pleasures that are everywhere
outspread. Although I had not had a vacation in years, I was eager to be
at work. The greatness of life, its possibilities, the astounding dreams
of supremacy which might come true, were calling to me. I wanted to be
on, to find what life had in store for me; and yet I wanted to stay here
for a while.

Mich’s father, as well as his mother and wife, interested me intensely,
for they were simple, industrious, believing. They were good Baptists or
Methodists or Presbyterians. The grizzled little old farmer who had
built up this place or inherited a part and added the rest, was exactly
like all the other farmers I have ever known: genial, kindly, fairly
tolerant, curious as to the wonders of the world without, full of a
great faith in America and its destiny, sure that it is the greatest
country in the world, and that there has never been one other like it.
That first night at supper, and the next morning at breakfast, and all
my other days here, the old man questioned me as to life, its ways, my
beliefs or theories, and I am positive that he was delighted to have me
there, for it was winter and he had little to do besides read his paper.

The newspaper of largest circulation in this region was the _Blade_ of
Toledo, which he read assiduously. The mother and daughter-in-law did
most of the work. The mother was forever busy cooking breakfast or
dinner, cleaning the rooms, milking, making butter and cheese, gathering
eggs from a nearby hennery. Her large cellar was stocked with jellies,
preserved fruit, apples, potatoes and other vegetables. There was an
ample store of bacon, salt pork and beef. I found that no fresh meat
other than chicken was served, but the meals were delightful and
plentiful, delicious biscuits and jelly, fresh butter, eggs, ham, bacon,
salt pork or cured beef, and the rarely absent fried chicken, as well as
some rabbits which Mich shot. During my stay he did nothing but idle
about the barn, practicing on a cornet which he said had saved his lungs
at a time when he was threatened with consumption. But his playing! I
wonder the cure did not prove fatal. I noted the intense interest of
Mich’s father in what the discovery of gas in this region would do for
it. He was almost certain that all small towns hereabout would now
become prosperous manufacturing centers. There would be work for all.
Wages would go up. Many people would soon come here and become rich.
This of course never came true at all. The flow of natural gas soon gave
out and the oil strikes were not even rivals of some nearby fields.

All this talk was alien to my thoughts. I could not fix my interest on
trade and what it held in store for anybody. I knew it must be so and
that America was destined to grow materially, but somehow the thing did
not interest me. My thoughts leaped to the artistic spectacle such
material prosperity might subsequently present, not to the purely
material phase of the prosperity itself. Indeed I could never think of
the work being done in any factory or institution without passing from
that work to the lives behind it, the crowds of commonplace workers, the
great streets which they filled, the bare homes, and the separate and
distinct dramas of their individual lives. I was tremendously interested
by the rise of various captains of industry then already bestriding
America, their opportunities and pleasures, the ease and skill with
which they organized “trusts” and combinations, their manipulations of
the great railroads, oil and coal fields, their control of the telegraph
and the telephone, their sharp and watchful domination of American
politics; but only as drama. Grover Cleveland was President, and his
every deed was paining the Republicans quite as much as it was
gratifying the Democrats, but I could already see that the lot of the
underdog varied little with the much-heralded changes of
administration—and it was the underdog that always interested me more
than the upper one, his needs, his woes, his simplicities. Here, as
elsewhere, I could see by talking to Mich and his father, men became
vastly excited, paraded and all but wept over the results of one
election or another, city, State or national, but when all was said and
done and America had been “saved,” or the Constitution “defended” or
“wrecked,” the condition of the average man, myself included, was about
as it had been before.

The few days I spent here represented an interlude between an old and a
new life. I have always felt that in leaving St. Louis I put my youth
behind me; that which followed was both sobering and broadening. But on
this farm, beside this charming river, I paused for a few days and took
stock of my life thus far, and it certainly seemed pointless and
unpromising. I thought constantly and desperately of my future, the
uncertainty of it, and yet all the while my eye was fixed not upon any
really practical solution for me but rather upon the pleasures and
luxuries of life as enjoyed by others, the fine houses, the fine
clothes, the privilege of traveling, of sharing in the amusements of the
rich and the clever. Here I was, at the foot of the ladder, with not the
least skill for making money, compelled to make my way upward as best I
might, and yet thinking in terms of millions always. However much I
might earn in journalism, I had sense enough to know that it would yield
me little or nothing. After some thought, I decided that I would move on
to some other city, where I would get into the newspaper business for a
while and then see what I should see.

Indeed I never saw Mich but once again.

But Toledo. This was my first free and unaided flight into the unknown.
I found here a city far more agreeable than St. Louis, which, being much
greater in size, had districts which were positively appalling for their
poverty and vice; whereas here was a city of not quite 100,000, as clean
and fresh as any city could be. I recall being struck with clean asphalt
pavements, a canal or waterway in which many lake vessels were riding,
and houses and stores, frame for the most part, which seemed clean if
not quite new. The first papers I bought, the _Blade_ and the _Bee_,
were full of the usual American small city bluster together with columns
and columns about American politics and business.

Before seeking work I decided to investigate the town. I was intensely
interested in America and its cities, and wondered, in spite of my
interest in New York, which I would select for my permanent
resting-place. When was I to have a home of my own? Would it be as
pleasing as one of these many which here and elsewhere I saw in quiet
rows shaded by trees, many of them with spacious lawns and suggestive of
that security and comfort so dear to the mollusc-like human heart? For,
after security, nothing seems to be so important or so desirable to the
human organism as rest, or at least ease. The one thing that the life
force seems to desire to escape is work, or at any rate strife. One
would think that man had been invented against his will by some malign
power and was being harried along ways and to tasks against which his
soul revolted and to which his strength was not equal.

As I walked about the streets of this city my soul panted for the
seeming comfort and luxury of them. The well-kept lawns, the shuttered
and laced windows! The wonder of evening fires in winter! The open, cool
and shadowy doors in summer! Swings and hammocks on lawns and porches!
The luxury of the book and rocker! Somehow in the stress of my disturbed
youth I had missed most of this.

After a day of looking about the city I applied to the city editor of
the leading morning paper, and encountered one of the intellectual
experiences of my life. At the city editorial desk in a small and not
too comfortable room sat a small cherubic individual, with a complexion
of milk and cream, light brown hair and a serene blue eye, who looked me
over quizzically, as much as to say: “Look what the latest breeze has
wafted in.” His attitude was neither antagonistic nor welcoming. He was
so assured that I half-detected on sight the speculative thinker and
dreamer. Yet in the rôle of city editor in a mid-West manufacturing town
one must have an air if not the substance of commercial understanding
and ability, and so my young city editor seemed to breathe a
determination to be very executive and forceful.

“You’re a St. Louis newspaper man, eh?” he said, eyeing me casually.
“Never worked in a town of this size, though? Well, the conditions are
very different. We pay much attention to small items—make a good deal
out of nothing,” and he smiled. “But there isn’t a thing I can see now,
nothing beyond a three- or four-day job which you wouldn’t want, I’m
sure.”

“How do you know I wouldn’t?”

“Well, I’ll tell you about it. There’s a street-car strike on and I
could use a man who had nerve enough to ride around on the cars the
company is attempting to run and report how things are. But I’ll tell
you frankly: it’s dangerous. You may be shot or hit with a brick.”

I indicated my willingness to undertake this and he looked at me in a
mock serious and yet approving way. He took me on and I went about the
city on one car-line and another, studying the strange streets,
expecting and fearing every moment that a brick might be shied at me
through the window or that a gang of irate workingmen would board the
car and beat me up. But nothing happened, not a single threatening
workman anywhere; I so reported and was told to write it up and make as
much of the “story” as possible. Without knowing anything of the merits
of the case, my sympathies were all with the workingmen. I had seen
enough of strikes, and of poverty, and of the quarrels between the
money-lords and the poor, to be all on one side. As was the custom in
all newspaper offices with which I ever had anything to do, where labor
and capital were concerned I was told to be neutral and not antagonize
either side. I wrote my “story” and it was published in the first
edition. Then, at the order of this same youth, I visited some charity
bazaar, where all the important paintings owned in the city were being
exhibited, and wrote an account which was headed, “As in Old Toledo,”
with all the silly chaff about “gallants and ladies gay,” after which I
spread my feet under a desk, being interested to talk more with the
smiling if indifferent youth who had employed me.

The opportunity soon came, for apparently he was as much interested in
me as I in him. He came over after I had submitted my second bit of copy
and announced that it was entirely satisfactory. A man from the
composing-room entered and commented on the fact that James Whitcomb
Riley and Eugene Field were billed to lecture in the city soon. I
remarked that I had once seen Field in the office of the News in
Chicago, which brought out the fact that my city editor had once worked
in Chicago, had been a member of the Whitechapel Club, knew Field,
Finley Peter Dunne, Brand Whitlock, Ben King and others. At mention of
the magic name of Ben King, author of “If I Should Die Tonight” and
“Jane Jones,” the atmosphere of Chicago of the time of the Whitechapel
Club and Eugene Field and Ben King returned. At once we fell into a
varied and gay exchange of intimacies.

It resulted in an enduring and yet stormy and disillusioning friendship.
If he had been a girl I would have married him, of course. It would have
been inevitable. We were intellectual affinities. Our dreams were
practically identical, though we approached them from different angles.
He was the sentimentalist in thought, though the realist in action; I
was the realist in thought and the sentimentalist in action. He took me
out to lunch, and we stayed nearly three hours. He took me to dinner,
and to do so was compelled to call up his wife and say he had to stay in
town. He had dreams of becoming a poet and novelist, I of becoming a
playwright. Before the second day had gone he had shown me a book of
fairy-tales and some poems. I became enamored of him, the victim of a
delightful illusion.

Because he liked me he wanted me to stay on. There was no immediate
place, he said, but one might open at any time. Having very little
money, I could not see my way to that, but I did try to get a place on
the rival paper. That failing, he suggested that although I wander on
toward Cleveland and Buffalo I stand ready to come back if he
telegraphed for me. Meanwhile we reveled in that wonderful possession,
intellectual affection. I thought him wonderful, perfect, great; he
thought—well, I have heard him tell in after years what he thought. Even
now at times he fixes me with hungry, welcoming eyes.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER LVII


WHETHER I should go East or West suddenly became a question with me. I
had the feeling that I might do better in Detroit or some point west of
Chicago, only the nearness of such cities as Cleveland, Buffalo,
Pittsburgh and those farther east deterred me; the cost of reaching them
was small, and all the while I should be moving toward my brother in New
York. And so, after making inquiry at the office of the _Bee_ for a
possible opening and finding none, and learning from several newspaper
men that Detroit was not considered a live journalistic town, I decided
to travel eastward, and bought a ticket to Cleveland.

Riding in sight of the tumbling waves of Lake Erie, I was taken back in
thought to my days in Chicago and all those who had already dropped out
of my life forever. What a queer, haphazard, disconnected thing this
living was! Where should I be tomorrow, what doing—the next year—the
year after that? Should I ever have any money, any standing, any
friends? So I tortured myself. Arriving in Cleveland at the close of a
smoky gray afternoon, I left my bag at the station and sought a room,
then walked out to see what I should see. I knew no one. Not a friend
anywhere within five hundred miles. My sole resource my little skill as
a newspaper worker. Buying the afternoon and morning papers, I examined
them with care, copying down their editorial room addresses, then betook
me to a small beanery for food.

The next morning I was up early, determined to see as much as I could,
to visit the offices of the afternoon papers before noon, then to look
in upon the city editors of the two or three morning papers. The latter
proved not very friendly and there appeared to be no opening anywhere.
But I determined to remain here for a few days studying the city as a
city and visiting the same editors each day or as often as they would
endure me. If nothing came of it within a week, and no telegram came
from my friend H—— in Toledo calling me back, I proposed to move on; to
which city I had not as yet made up my mind.

The thing that interested me most about Cleveland then was that it was
so raw, dark, dirty, smoky, and yet possessed of one thing: force,
raucous, clattering, semi-intelligent force. America was then so new
industrially, in the furnace stage of its existence. Everything was in
the making: fortunes, art, social and commercial life. The most
impressive things were its rich men, their homes, factories, clubs,
office buildings and institutions of commerce and pleasure generally;
and this was as true of Cleveland as of any other city in America.

Indeed the thing which held my attention, after I had been in Cleveland
a day or two and had established myself in a somber room in a somber
neighborhood once occupied by the very rich, were those great and new
residences in Euclid Avenue, with wide lawns and iron or stone statues
of stags and dogs and deer, which were occupied by such rich men as John
D. Rockefeller, Tom Johnson, and Henry M. Flagler. Rockefeller only a
year or two before had given millions to revivify the almost defunct
University of Chicago, then a small Baptist college, and was accordingly
being hailed as one of the richest men of America. He and his satellites
and confreres were already casting a luster over Cleveland. They were
all living here in Euclid Avenue, and I was interested to look up their
homes, envying them their wealth of course and wishing that I were
famous or a member of a wealthy family, and that I might some day meet
one of the beautiful girls I thought must be here and have her fall in
love with and make me rich. Physically or artistically or materially,
there was nothing to see but business: a few large hotels, like those of
every American city, and these few great houses. Add a few theaters and
commonplace churches. All American cities and all the inhabitants were
busy with but one thing: commerce. They ate, drank and slept trade. In
my wanderings I found a huge steel works and a world of low, smoky,
pathetic little hovels about it. Although I was not as yet given to
reasoning about the profound delusion of equality under democracy, this
evidence of the little brain toiling for the big one struck me with
great force and produced a good deal of speculative thought later on.

The paper with which I was eventually connected was the Cleveland
_Leader_, which represented all that was conservative in the local life.
Wandering into its office on the second or third day of my stay, I was
met at the desk of the city editor by a small, boyish-looking person of
a ferret-like countenance, who wanted to know what I was after. I told
him, and he said there was nothing, but on hearing of the papers with
which I had been connected and the nature of the work I had done he
suggested that possibly I might be able to do something for the Sunday
edition. The Sunday editor proved to be a tall, melancholy man with sad
eyes, a sallow face, sunken cheeks, narrow shoulders and a general air
of weariness and depression.

“What is it, now, you want?” he asked slowly, looking up from his musty
roll-top desk.

“Your city editor suggested that possibly you might have some Sunday
work for me to do. I’ve had experience in this line in Chicago and St.
Louis.”

“Yes,” he said not asking me to sit down. “Well, now, what do you think
you could write about?”

This was a poser. Being new to the city I had not thought of any
particular thing, and could not at this moment. I told him this.

“There’s one thing you might write about if you could. Did you ever hear
of a new-style grain-boat they are putting on the Lakes called——”

“Turtle-back?” I interrupted.

“Turtle-back?” went on the editor indifferently. “Well, there’s one here
now in the harbor. It’s the first one to come here. Do you think you
could get up something on that?”

“I’m sure I could. I’d like to try. Do you use pictures?”

“You might get a photo or two; we could have drawings made from them.”

I started for the door, eager to be about this, when he said: “We don’t
pay very much: three dollars a column.”

That was discouraging, but I was filled with the joy of doing something.
On my way out I stopped at the business office and bought a copy of the
last Sunday issue, which proved to be a poor makeshift composed of a
half dozen articles on local enterprises and illustrated with a few
crude drawings. I read one or two of them, and then looked up my
waterfront boat. I found it tied up at a dock adjoining an immense
railroad yard and near an imposing grain elevator. Finding nobody about,
I nosed out the bookkeeper of the grain elevator, who told me that the
captain of the boat had gone to the company’s local office in a nearby
street. I hastened to the place, and there found a bluff old lake
captain in blue, short, stout, ruddy, coarse, who volunteered, almost
with a “Heigh!” and a “Ho!” to tell me something about it.

“I think I ought to know a little something about ’em—I sailed the first
one that was ever sailed out of the port of Chicago.”

I listened with open ears. I caught a disjointed story of plans and
specifications, Sault Ste. Marie, the pine woods of Northern Michigan,
the vast grain business of Chicago and other lake ports, early
navigation on the lakes, the theory of a bilge keel and a turtle-back
top, and all strung together with numerous “y’sees” and “so nows.” I
made notes, on backs of envelopes, scraps of paper, and finally on a pad
furnished me by the generous bookkeeper. I carried my notes back to the
paper.

The Sunday editor was out. I waited patiently until half-past four, and
then, the light fading, gave up the idea of going with a photographer to
the boat. I went to a faded green baize-covered table and began to write
my story. I had no sooner done a paragraph or two than the Sunday editor
returned, bringing with him an atmosphere of lassitude and indifference.
I went to him to explain what I had done.

“Well, write it up, write it up. We’ll see,” and he turned away to his
papers.

I labored hard at my story, and by seven or eight o’clock had ground out
two thousand words of description which had more of the bluff old
captain in it than of the boat. The Sunday editor took it when I was
through, and shoved it into a pigeon-hole, telling me to call in a day
or two and he would let me know. I thought this strange. It seemed to me
that if I were working for a Sunday paper I should work every day. I
called the next day, but Mr. Loomis had not read it. The next day he
said the story was well enough written, though very long. “You don’t
want to write so loosely. Stick to your facts closer.”

This day I suggested a subject of my own, “the beauty of some of the new
suburbs,” but he frowned at this as offering a lot of free advertising
to real estate men who ought to be made to pay. Then I proposed an
article on the magnificence of Euclid Avenue, which was turned down as
old. I then spoke of a great steel works which was but then coming into
the city, but as this offered great opportunity to all the papers he
thought poorly of it. He compromised a day or two later by allowing me
to write up a chicken-farm which lay outside the city.

Of course this made a poor showing for me at the cashier’s desk. At the
end of the second week I was allowed to put in a bill for seven dollars
and a half. I had not realized that I was wasting so much time. I
appealed to all the editors again for a regular staff position, but was
told there was no opening. It began to look as if I should have to leave
Cleveland soon, and I wondered where I should go next—Buffalo or
Pittsburgh, both equally near.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER LVIII


FINDING Cleveland hopeless for me, I one day picked up and left. Then
came Buffalo, which I reached toward the end of March. Aside from the
Falls I found it a little tame, no especial snap to it—not as much as I
had felt to be characteristic of Cleveland. What interest there was for
me I provided myself, wandering about in odd drear neighborhoods, about
grain elevators and soap factories and railroad yards and manufacturing
districts. Here, as in Cleveland, I could not help but see that in spite
of our boasted democracy and equality of opportunity there was as much
misery and squalor and as little decent balancing of opportunity against
energy as anywhere else in the world. The little homes, the poor,
shabby, colorless, drear, drab little homes with their grassless
“yards,” their unpaved streets, their uncollected garbage, their
fluttering, thin-flamed gas-lamps, the crowds of ragged, dirty,
ill-cared-for children! Near at hand was always the inevitable and
wretched saloon, not satisfying a need for pleasure in a decent way but
pandering to the lowest and most conniving and most destroying instincts
of the lowest politicians and heelers and grafters and crooks, while the
huge financial and manufacturing magnates at the top with their lust for
power and authority used the very flesh of the weaker elements for
purposes of their own. It was the saloon, not liquor, which brought
about the prohibition folly. I used to listen, as a part of my
reportorial duties, to the blatherings of thin-minded, thin-blooded,
thin-experienced religionists as well as to those of kept editorial
writers, about the merits and blessings and opportunities of our noble
and bounteous land; but whenever I encountered such regions as this I
knew well enough that there was something wrong with their noble
maunderings. Shout as they might, there was here displayed before my
very eyes ample evidence that somewhere there was a screw loose in the
“Fatherhood of Man—Brotherhood of God” machinery.

After I had placed myself in a commonplace neighborhood near the
business center, I canvassed the newspaper offices and their editors.
Although I had in my pocket that letter from the publisher of the St.
Louis _Republic_ extolling my virtues as a reporter and correspondent,
so truly vagrom was my mood and practical judgment that I did not
present it to any one. Instead I merely mooned into one office after
another (there were only four papers here), convinced before entering
that I should not get anything—and I did not. One young city editor,
seeming to take at least an interest in me, assured me that if I would
remain in Buffalo for six weeks he could place me; but since I had not
enough money to sustain myself so long I decided not to wait. Ten days
spent in reconnoitering these offices daily, and I concluded that it was
useless to remain longer. Yet before I went I determined to see at least
one thing more: the Falls.

Therefore one day I traveled by trolley to Niagara and looked at that
tumbling flood, then not chained or drained by turbine water-power
sluices. I was impressed, but not quite so much as I had thought I
should be. Standing out on a rock near the greatest volume of water
under a gray sky, I was awed by the downpour and then became dizzy and
felt as though I were being carried along whether I would or not.
Farther upstream I stared at the water as it gathered force and speed,
wondering how I should feel if I were in a small canoe and fighting it
for my life. Behind the falls were great stalagmites and stalactites of
ice and snow still standing from the cold of weeks before. I recalled
that Blondel, a famous French swimmer of his day, had ten years before
swum these fierce and angry waters below the Falls. I wondered how he
had done it, so wildly did they leap, huge wheels of water going round
and round and whitecaps leaping and spitting and striking at each other.

When I returned to Buffalo I congratulated myself that if I had got
nothing else out of my visit to Buffalo, at least I had gained this.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER LIX


I NOW decided that Pittsburgh would be as good a field as any, and one
morning seeing a sign outside a cut-rate ticket-broker’s window reading
“Pittsburgh, $5.75,” I bought a ticket, returned to my small room to
pack my bag, and departed. I arrived at Pittsburgh at six or seven that
same evening.

Of all the cities in which I ever worked or lived Pittsburgh was the
most agreeable. Perhaps it was due to the fact that my stay included
only spring, summer and fall, or that I found a peculiarly easy
newspaper atmosphere, or that the city was so different physically from
any I had thus far seen; but whether owing to one thing or another
certainly no other newspaper work I ever did seemed so pleasant, no
other city more interesting. What a city for a realist to work and dream
in! The wonder to me is that it has not produced a score of writers,
poets, painters and sculptors, instead of—well, how many? And who are
they?

I came down to it through the brown-blue mountains of Western
Pennsylvania, and all day long we had been winding at the base of one or
another of them, following the bed of a stream or turning out into a
broad smooth valley, crossing directly at the center of it, or climbing
some low ridge with a puff-puff-puff and then clattering almost
recklessly down the other slope. I had never before seen any mountains.
The sight of sooty-faced miners at certain places, their little oil and
tow tin lamps fastened to their hats, their tin dinner-pails on their
arms, impressed me as something new and faintly reminiscent of the one
or two small coal mines about Sullivan, Indiana, where I had lived when
I was a boy of seven. Along the way I saw a heavy-faced and heavy-bodied
type of peasant woman, with a black or brown or blue or green skirt and
a waist of a contrasting color, a headcloth or neckerchief of still
another, trailed by a few children of equally solid proportions, hanging
up clothes or doing something else about their miserable places. These
were the much-maligned hunkies just then being imported by the large
manufacturing and mining and steel-making industries of the country to
take the place of the restless and less docile American working man and
woman. I marveled at their appearance and number, and assumed,
American-fashion, that in their far-off and unhappy lands they had heard
of the wonderful American Constitution, its guaranty of life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness, as well as of the bounteous opportunities
afforded by this great land, and that they had forsaken their miseries
to come all this distance to enjoy these greater blessings.

I did not then know of the manufacturers’ foreign labor agent with his
lying propaganda among ignorant and often fairly contented peasants,
painting America as a country rolling in wealth and opportunity, and
then bringing them here to take the places of more restless and greatly
underpaid foreigners who, having been brought over by the same gay
pictures, were becoming irritated and demanded more pay. I did not then
know of the padrone, the labor spy, the company store, five cents an
hour for breaker children, the company stockade, all in full operation
at this time. All I knew was that there had been a great steel strike in
Pittsburgh recently, that Andrew Carnegie, as well as other steel
manufacturers (the Olivers, for one), had built fences and strung them
with electrified barbed wire in order to protect themselves against the
“lawless” attacks of “lawless” workingmen.

I also knew that a large number of State or county or city paid deputy
sheriffs and mounted police and city policemen had been sworn in and set
to guarding the company’s property and that H. C. Frick, a leading steel
manager for Mr. Carnegie, had been slightly wounded by a desperado named
Alexander Berkman, who was inflaming these workingmen, all foreigners of
course, lawless and unappreciative of the great and prosperous steel
company which was paying them reasonable wages and against which they
had no honest complaint.

Our mid-Western papers, up to the day of Cleveland’s election in 1892
and for some time after, had been full of the merits of this labor
dispute, with long and didactic editorials, intended in the main to
prove that the workingman was not so greatly underpaid, considering the
type of labor he performed and the intelligence he brought to his task;
that the public was not in the main vastly interested in labor disputes,
both parties to the dispute being unduly selfish; that it would be a
severe blow to the prosperity of the country if labor disputes were too
long continued; that unless labor was reasonable in its demands capital
would become disheartened and leave the country. I had not made up my
mind that the argument was all on one side, although I knew that the
average man in America, despite its great and boundless opportunities,
was about as much put upon and kicked about and underpaid as any other.
This growing labor problem or the general American dissatisfaction with
poor returns upon efforts made crystallized three years later in the
Free Silver campaign and the “gold parades.” The “full dinner-pail” was
then invented as a slogan to counteract the vast economic unrest, and
the threat to close down and so bring misery to the entire country
unless William McKinley was elected was also freely posted. Henry
George, Father McGlynn, Herr Most, Emma Goldman, and a score of others
were abroad voicing the woes of hundreds of thousands who were supposed
to have no woes.

At that time, as I see it now, America was just entering upon the most
lurid phase of that vast, splendid, most lawless and most savage period
in which the great financiers were plotting and conniving at the
enslavement of the people and belaboring each other. Those crude parvenu
dynasties which now sit enthroned in our democracy, threatening its very
life with their pretensions and assumptions, were then in their very
beginning. John D. Rockefeller was still in Cleveland; Flagler, William
Rockefeller, H. H. Rogers, were still comparatively young and secret
agents; Carnegie was still in Pittsburgh, an iron master, and of all his
brood of powerful children only Frick had appeared; William H.
Vanderbilt and Jay Gould had only recently died; Cleveland was
President, and Mark Hanna was an unknown business man in Cleveland. The
great struggles of the railroads, the coal companies, the gas companies,
to overawe and tax the people were still in abeyance, or just being
born. The multi-millionaire had arrived, it is true, but not the
billionaire. On every hand were giants plotting, fighting, dreaming; and
yet in Pittsburgh there was still something of a singing spirit.

When I arrived here and came out of the railway station, which was
directly across the Monongahela River from the business center, I was
impressed by the huge walls of hills that arose on every hand, a great
black sheer ridge rising to a height of five or six hundred feet to my
right and enclosing this river, on the bosom of which lay steamboats of
good size. From the station a pleasingly designed bridge of fair size
led to the city beyond, and across it trundled in unbroken lines
street-cars and wagons and buggies of all sizes and descriptions. The
city itself was already smartly outlined by lights, a galaxy climbing
the hills in every direction, and below me as I walked out upon this
bridge was an agate stream reflecting the lights from either shore.
Below this was another bridge, and upstream another. The whole river for
a mile or more was suddenly lit to a rosy glow, a glow which, as I saw
upon turning, came from the tops of some forty or fifty stacks belching
a deep orange-red flame. At the same time an enormous pounding and
crackling came from somewhere, as though titans were at work upon
subterranean anvils. I stared and admired. I felt that I was truly
adventuring into a new and strange world. I was glad now that I had not
found work in Toledo or Cleveland or Buffalo.

The city beyond the river proved as interesting as the river cliffs and
forges about the station. As I walked along I discovered the name of the
street (Smithfield), which began at the bridge’s end and was lined with
buildings of not more than three or four stories although it was one of
the principal streets of the business center. At the bridge-head on the
city side stood a large smoke-colored stone building, which later I
discovered was the principal hotel, the Monongahela, and beyond that was
a most attractive and unusual postoffice building. I came to a cross
street finally (Fifth Avenue), brightly lighted and carrying unusual
traffic, and turned into it. I found this central region to be most
puzzlingly laid out, and did not attempt to solve its mysteries.
Instead, I entered a modest restaurant in a side street. Later I hunted
up a small hotel, where I paid a dollar for a room for the night. I
retired, speculating as to how I should make out here. Something about
the city drew me intensely. I wished I might remain for a time. The next
morning I was up bright and early to look up the morning papers and find
out the names of the afternoon papers. I found that there were four: the
_Dispatch_ and _Times_, morning papers, and the GAZETTE-TELEGRAPH and
_Leader_, afternoon. I thought them most interesting and different from
those of other cities in which I had worked.

    “Andy Pastor had his right hand lacerated while at work in the
    23-inch mill yesterday.”

    “John Kristoff had his right wrist sprained while at work in the
    140-inch mill yesterday.”

    “Joseph Novic is suffering from contused wounds of the left
    wrist received while at work in the 23-inch mill yesterday.”

    “A train of hot metal, being hauled from a mixing-house to open
    hearth No. 2, was side-swiped by a yard engine near the 48-inch
    mill. The impact tilted the ladles of some of the cars and the
    hot metal spilled in a pool of water along the track. Antony
    Brosak, Constantine Czernik and Kafros Maskar were seriously
    wounded by the exploding metal.”

Such items arrested my attention at once; and then such names as
Squirrel Hill, Sawmill Run, Moon Run, Hazelwood, Wind Gap Road,
Braddock, McKeesport, Homestead, Swissvale, somehow made me wish to know
more of this region.

The _Dispatch_ was Republican, the _Times_ Democratic. Both were
evidently edited with much conservatism as to local news. I made haste
to visit the afternoon newspaper offices, only to discover that they
were fully equipped with writers. I then proceeded in search of a room
and finally found one in Wylie Avenue, a curious street that climbed a
hill to its top and then stopped. Here, almost at the top of this hill,
in an old yellow stonefront house the rear rooms of which commanded a
long and deep canyon or “run,” I took a room for a week. The family of
this house rented rooms to several others, clerks who looked and proved
to be a genial sort, holding a kind of court on the front steps of an
evening.

I now turned to the morning papers, going first to the _Times_, which
had its offices in a handsome building, one of the two or three high
office buildings in the city. The city editor received me graciously but
could promise nothing. At the _Dispatch_, which was published in a
three-story building at Smithfield and Diamond streets, I found a man
who expressed much more interest. He was a slender, soft-spoken,
one-handed man. On very short acquaintance I found him to be shrewd and
canny, gracious always, exceedingly reticent and uncommunicative and an
excellent judge of news, and plainly holding his job not so much by
reason of what he put into his paper as by what he kept out of it. He
wanted to know where I had worked before I came to Pittsburgh, whether I
had been connected with any paper here, whether I had ever done feature
stuff. I described my experiences as nearly as I could, and finally he
said that there was nothing now but he was expecting a vacancy to occur
soon. If I could come around in the course of a week or ten days (I
drooped sadly)—well, then, in three or four days, he thought he might do
something for me. The salary would not be more than eighteen the week.
My spirits fell at that, but his manner was so agreeable and his hope
for me so keen that I felt greatly encouraged and told him I would wait
a few days anyhow. My friend in Toledo had promised me that he would
wire me at the first opening, and I was now expecting some word from
him. This I told to this city editor, and he said: “Well, you might wait
until you hear from him anyhow.” A thought of my possible lean purse did
not seem to occur to him, and I marveled at the casual manner in which
he assumed that I could wait.

Thereafter I roamed the city and its environs, and to my delight found
it to be one of the most curious and fascinating places I had ever seen.
From a stationery store I first secured a map and figured out the lay of
the town. At a glance I saw that the greater part of it stretched
eastward along the tongue of land that was between the Allegheny and the
Monongahela, and that this was Pittsburgh proper. Across the Allegheny,
on the north side, was the city of Allegheny, an individual municipality
but so completely connected with Pittsburgh as to be identical with it,
and connected with it by many bridges. Across the Monongahela, on the
south side, were various towns: Mt. Washington, Duquesne, Homestead. I
was interested especially in Homestead because of the long and bitter
contest between the steel-workers and the Carnegie Company, which for
six months and more in 1892 had occupied space on the front page of
every newspaper in America.

Having studied my map I explored, going first across the river into
Allegheny. Here I found a city built about the base of high granite
hills or between ridges in hollows called “gaps” or “runs” with a street
or car-line clambering and twisting directly over them. A charming park
and boulevard system had been laid out, with the city hall, a public
market and a Carnegie public library as a center. The place had large
dry-goods and business houses.

On another day I crossed to the south side and ascended by an inclined
plane, such as later I discovered to be one of the transportation
features of Pittsburgh, the hill called Mt. Washington, from the top of
which, walking along an avenue called Grand View Boulevard which skirted
the brow of the hill, I had the finest view of a city I have ever seen.
In later years I looked down upon New York from the heights of the
Palisades and the hills of Staten Island; on Rome from the Pincian
Gardens; on Florence from San Miniato; and on Pasadena and Los Angeles
from the slopes of Mt. Lowe; but never anywhere have I seen a scene
which impressed me more than this: the rugged beauty of the mountains,
which encircle the city, the three rivers that run as threads of bright
metal, dividing it into three parts, the several cities joined as one,
their clambering streets presenting a checkered pattern emphasized here
and there by the soot-darkened spires of churches and the walls of the
taller and newer and cleaner office buildings.

As in most American cities of any size, the skyscraper was just being
introduced and being welcomed as full proof of the growth and wealth and
force of the city. No city was complete without at least one: the more,
of course, the grander.

Pittsburgh had a better claim to the skyscraper as a commercial
necessity than any other American city that I know. The tongue of land
which lies between the Allegheny and the Monongahela, very likely not
more than two or three square miles in extent, is still the natural
heart of the commercial life for fifty, a hundred miles about. Here meet
the three large rivers, all navigable. Here, again, the natural runs and
gaps of the various hills about, as well as the levels which pursue the
banks of the streams and which are the natural vents or routes for
railroad lines, street-cars and streets, come to a common center.
Whether by bridges from Allegheny, the south bank of the Ohio or the
Monongahela, or along the shores of the Allegheny or Monongahela within
the city of Pittsburgh itself, all meet somewhere in this level tongue;
and here, of necessity, is the business center. So without the tall
building, I cannot see how one-tenth of the business which would and
should be normally transacted here would ever come about.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER LX


BARRING two or three tall buildings, the city of Pittsburgh was then of
a simple and homelike aspect. A few blackened church spires, a small
dark city hall and an old market-place, a long stretch of blast
furnaces, black as night, and the lightly constructed bridges over the
rivers, gave it all an airy grace and charm.

Since the houses up here were very simple, mostly working-men’s
cottages, and the streets back followed the crests of hills twisting and
winding as they went and providing in consequence the most startling and
effective views of green hills and mountains beyond, I decided that
should I be so fortunate as to secure work I would move over here. It
would be like living in a mountain resort, and most inexpensively.

I descended and took a car which followed the Monongahela upstream to
Homestead, and here for the first time had a view of that enormous steel
plant which only recently (June to December, 1892) had played such a
great part in the industrial drama of America. The details of the
quarrel were fairly fresh in my mind: how the Carnegie Steel Company had
planned, with the technicalities of a wage-scale readjustment as an
excuse, to break the power of the Amalgamated Steel Workers, who were
becoming too forceful and who were best organized in their plant, and
how the Amalgamated, resenting the introduction of three hundred
Pinkerton guards to “protect” the plant, had attacked them, killing
several and injuring others, and so permitting the introduction of the
State militia, which speedily and permanently broke the power of the
strikers. They could only wait then and starve, and so they had waited
and starved for six months, when they finally returned to work, such of
them as would be received. When I reached there in April, 1894, the
battle was already fifteen months past, but the feeling was still alive.
I did not then know what it was about this town of Homestead that was so
depressing, but in the six months of my stay here I found that it was a
compound of a sense of defeat and sullen despair. The men had not
forgotten. Even then the company was busy, and had been for months,
importing Poles, Hungarians, Lithuanians, to take the places of the
ousted strikers. Whole colonies were already here, housed under the most
unsatisfactory conditions, and more were coming. Hence the despair of
those who had been defeated.

Along the river sprawled for a quarter of a mile or more the huge low
length of the furnaces, great black bottle-like affairs with rows of
stacks and long low sheds or buildings paralleling them, sheds from
which came a continuous hammering and sputtering and the glow of red
fire. The whole was shrouded by a pall of gray smoke, even in the bright
sunshine. Above the plant, on a slope which rose steeply behind it, were
a few moderately attractive dwellings grouped about two small parks, the
trees of which were languishing for want of air. Behind and to the sides
of these were the spires of several churches, those soporifics against
failure and despair. Turning up side streets one found, invariably,
uniform frame houses, closely built and dulled by smoke and grime, and
below, on the flats behind the mill, were cluttered alleys so unsightly
and unsanitary as to shock me into the belief that I was once more
witnessing the lowest phases of Chicago slum-life, the worst I had ever
seen. The streets were mere mud-tracks. Where there were trees (and
there were few) they were dwarfed and their foliage withered by a
metallic fume which was over all. Though the sun was bright at the top
of the hill, down here it was gray, almost cloudy, at best a filtered
dull gold haze.

The place held me until night. I browsed about its saloons, of which
there was a large number, most of them idle during the drift of the
afternoon. The open gates of the mill held my interest also, for through
them I could see furnaces, huge cranes, switching engines, cars of
molten iron being hauled to and fro, and mountains of powdered iron ore
and scrap iron piled here and there awaiting the hour of new birth in
the smelting vats. When the sun had gone down, and I had watched a shift
of men coming out with their buckets and coats over their arms, and
other hundreds entering in a rush, I returned to the city with a sense
of the weight and breadth and depth of huge effort. Here bridges and
rail and plate steel were made for all the world. But of all these units
that dwelt and labored here scarce a fraction seemed even to sense a
portion of the meaning of all they did. I knew that Carnegie had become
a multi-millionaire, as had Phipps and others, and that he was beginning
to give libraries, that Phipps had already given several floral
conservatories, and that their “lobbies” in Congress were even then
bartering for the patronage of the government on their terms; but the
poor units in these hovels at Homestead—what did they know?

On another day I explored the east end of Pittsburgh, which was the
exclusive residence section of the city and a contrast to such hovels
and deprivations as I had witnessed at Homestead and among the shacks
across the Monongahela and below Mt. Washington. Never in my life,
neither before nor since, in New York, Chicago or elsewhere, was the
vast gap which divides the rich from the poor in America so vividly and
forcefully brought home to me. I had seen on my map a park called
Schenley, and thinking that it might be interesting I made my way out a
main thoroughfare called (quite appropriately, I think) Fifth Avenue,
lined with some of the finest residences of the city. Never did the mere
possession of wealth impress me so keenly. Here were homes of the most
imposing character, huge, verandaed, tree-shaded, with immense lawns,
great stone or iron or hedge fences and formal gardens and walks of a
most ornate character. It was a region of well-curbed, well-drained and
well-paved thoroughfares. Even the street-lamps were of a better design
than elsewhere, so eager was a young and democratic municipality to see
that superior living conditions were provided for the rich. There were
avenues lined with well-cropped trees, and at every turn one encountered
expensive carriages, their horses jingling silver or gold-gilt harness,
their front seats occupied by one or two footmen in livery, while
reclining was Madam or Sir, or both, gazing condescendingly upon the all
too comfortable world about them.

In Schenley Park was a huge and interesting arboretum or botanical
garden under glass, a most oriental affair given by Phipps of the
Carnegie Company. A large graceful library of white limestone, perhaps
four or five times the size of the one in Allegheny, given by Andrew
Carnegie, was in process of construction. And he was another of the
chief beneficiaries of Homestead, the possessor of a great house in this
region, another in New York and still another in Scotland, a man for
whom the unwitting “Pinkertons” and contending strikers had been killed.
Like huge ribbons of fire these and other names of powerful steel
men—the Olivers, Thaws, Fricks, Thompsons—seemed to rise and band the
sky. It seemed astonishing to me that some men could thus rise and soar
about the heavens like eagles, while others, drab sparrows all, could
only pick among the offal of the hot ways below. What were these things
called democracy and equality about which men prated? Had they any basis
in fact? There was constant palaver about the equality of opportunity
which gave such men as these their chance, but I could not help
speculating as to the lack of equality of opportunity these men created
for others once their equality at the top had made them. If equality of
opportunity had been so excellent for them why not for others,
especially those in their immediate care? True, all men had not the
brains to seize upon and make use of that which was put before them, but
again, not all men of brains had the blessing of opportunity as had
these few men. Strength, as I felt, should not be too arrogant or too
forgetful of the accident or chance by which it had arrived. It might do
something for the poor—pay them decent living wages, for instance. Were
these giants planning to subject their sons and daughters to the same
“equality of opportunity” which had confronted them at the start and
which they were so eager to recommend to the attention of others? Not at
all. In this very neighborhood I passed an exclusive private school for
girls, with great grounds and a beautiful wall—another sample of
equality of opportunity.

On the fourth day of my stay here I called again at the _Dispatch_
office and was given a position, but only after the arrival of a
telegram from Toledo offering me work at eighteen a week. Now I had long
since passed out of the eighteen-dollar stage of reporting, and this was
by no means a comforting message. If I could show it to the _Dispatch_
city editor, I reasoned, it would probably hasten his decision to accept
me, but also he might consider eighteen dollars as a rate of pay
acceptable to me and would offer no more. I decided not to use it just
then but to go first and see if anything had come about in my favor.

“Nothing yet,” he said on seeing me. “Drop around tomorrow or Saturday.
I’m sure to know then one way or the other.”

I went out and in the doorway below stood and meditated. What was I to
do? If I delayed too long my friend in Toledo would not be able to do
anything for me, and if I showed this message it would fix my salary at
a place below that which I felt I deserved. I finally hit upon the idea
of changing the eighteen to twenty-five and went to a telegraph office
to find some girl to rewrite it for me. Not seeing a girl I would be
willing to approach, I worked over it myself, carefully erasing and
changing until the twenty-five, while a little forced and scraggly,
looked fairly natural. With this in my pocket I returned to the
_Dispatch_ this same afternoon, and told the city editor with as great
an air of assurance as I could achieve that I had just received this
message and was a little uncertain as to what to do about it. “The fact
is,” I said, “I have started from the West to go East. New York is my
eventual goal, unless I find a good place this side of it. But I’m up
against it now and unless I can do something here I might as well go
back there for the present. I wouldn’t show you this except that I must
answer it tonight.”

He read it and looked at me uncertainly. Finally he got up, told me to
wait a minute, and went through a nearby door. In a minute or two he
returned and said: “Well, that’s all right. We can do as well as that,
anyhow, if you want to stay at that rate.”

“All right,” I replied as nonchalantly as I could. “When do I start?”

“Come around tomorrow at twelve. I may not have anything for you, but
I’ll carry you for a day or two until I have.”

I trotted down the nearby steps as fast as my feet would carry me,
anxious to get out of his sight so that I might congratulate myself
freely. I hurried to a telegraph office to reject my friend’s offer. To
celebrate my cleverness and success I indulged in a good meal at one of
the best restaurants. Here I sat, and to prepare myself for my work
examined that day’s _Dispatch_, as well as the other papers, with a view
to unraveling their method of treating a feature or a striking piece of
news, also to discover what they considered a feature. By nine or ten I
had solved that mystery as well as I could, and then to quiet my excited
nerves I walked about the business section, finally crossing to Mt.
Washington so as to view the lighted city at night from this great
height. It was radiantly clear up there, and a young moon shining, and I
had the pleasure of looking down upon as wonderful a night panorama as I
have ever seen, a winking and fluttering field of diamonds that
outrivaled the sky itself. As far as the eye could see were these lamps
blinking and winking, and overhead was another glistering field of
stars. Below was that enormous group of stacks with their red tongues
waving in the wind. Far up the Monongahela, where lay Homestead and
McKeesport and Braddock and Swissvale, other glows of red fire indicated
where huge furnaces were blazing and boiling in the night. I thought of
the nest of slums I had seen at Homestead, of those fine houses in the
east end, and of Carnegie with his libraries, of Phipps with his glass
conservatories. How to get up in the world and be somebody was my own
thought now, and yet I knew that wealth was not for me. The best I
should ever do was to think and dream, standing aloof as a spectator.

The next day I began work on the _Dispatch_ and for six months was a
part of it, beginning with ordinary news reporting, but gradually taking
up the task of preparing original column features, first for the daily
and later for the Sunday issue. Still later, not long before I left, I
was by way of being an unpaid assistant to the dramatic editor, and a
traveling correspondent.

What impressed me most was the peculiar character of the city and the
newspaper world here, the more or less somnolent nature of its
population (apart from the steel companies and their employees) and the
genial and sociable character of the newspaper men. Never had I
encountered more intelligent or helpful or companionable albeit cynical
men than I found here. They knew the world, and their opportunities for
studying public as well as private impulses and desires and contrasting
them with public and private performances were so great as to make them
puzzled if not always accurate judges of affairs and events. One can
always talk to a newspaper man, I think, with the full confidence that
one is talking to a man who is at least free of moralistic mush. Nearly
everything in connection with those trashy romances of justice, truth,
mercy, patriotism, public profession of all sorts, is already and
forever gone if they have been in the business for any length of time.
The religionist is seen by them for what he is: a swallower of romance
or a masquerader looking to profit and preferment. Of the politician,
they know or believe but one thing: that he is out for himself, a
trickster artfully juggling with the moods and passions and ignorance of
the public. Judges are men who have by some chance or other secured good
positions and are careful to trim their sails according to the moods and
passions of the strongest element in any community or nation in which
they chance to be. The arts are in the main to be respected, when they
are not frankly confessed to be enigmas.

In a very little while I came to be on friendly terms with the men of
this and some other papers, men who, because of their intimate contact
with local political and social conditions, were well fitted to
enlighten me as to the exact economic and political conditions here. Two
in particular, the political and labor men of this paper were most
helpful. The former, a large, genial, commercial-drummer type, who might
also have made an excellent theatrical manager or promoter, provided me
with a clear insight into the general cleavage of local and State
politics and personalities. I liked him very much. The other, the labor
man, was a slow, silent, dark, square-shouldered and almost
square-headed youth, who drifted in and out of the office irregularly.
He it was who attended, when permitted by the working people themselves,
all labor meetings in the city or elsewhere, as far east at times as the
hard coal regions about Wilkes-Barre and Scranton. As he himself told
me, he was the paper’s sole authority for such comments or assertions as
it dared to make in connection with the mining of coal and the
manufacture of steel. He was an intense sympathizer with labor, but not
so much with organized as with unorganized workers. He believed that
labor here had two years before lost a most important battle, one which
would show in its contests with money in the future: which was true. He
pretended to know that there was a vast movement on foot among the
moneyed elements in America to cripple if not utterly destroy organized
labor, and to that end he assured me once that all the great steel and
coal and oil magnates were in a conspiracy to flood the country with
cheap foreign labor, which they had lured or were luring here by all
sorts of dishonest devices; once here, these immigrants were to be used
to break the demand of better-paid and more intelligent labor. He
pretended to know that in the coal and steel regions thousands had
already been introduced and more were on their way, and that all such
devices as showy churches and schools for defectives, etc., were used to
keep ignorant and tame those already here.

“But you can’t say anything about it in Pittsburgh,” he said to me. “If
I should talk I’d have to get out of here. The papers here won’t use a
thing unfavorable to the magnates in any of these fields. I write all
sorts of things, but they never get in.”

He read the _Congressional Record_ daily, as well as various radical
papers from different parts of the country, and was constantly calling
my attention to statistics and incidents which proved that the
workingman was being most unjustly put upon and undermined; but he never
did it in any urgent or disturbed manner. Rather, he seemed to be
profoundly convinced that the cause of the workers everywhere in America
was hopeless. They hadn’t the subtlety and the force and the innate
cruelty of those who ruled them. They were given to religious and
educational illusions, the parochial school and church paper, which left
them helpless. In the course of time, because I expressed interest in
and sympathy for these people, he took me into various mill slums in and
near the city to see how they lived.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER LXI


I WENT with him first to Homestead, then to some tenements there, later
to some other mill districts nearer Pittsburgh, the name of which I have
forgotten. What astonished me, in so far as the steel mills were
concerned, was the large number of furnaces going at once, the piles,
mountains, of powdered iron ore ready to be smelted, the long lines of
cars, flat, box and coal cars, and the nature and size and force of the
machinery used to roll steel. The work, as he or his friends the bosses
showed me, was divided between the “front” and the “back.” Those working
at the front of the furnace took care of the molten ore and slag which
was being “puddled.” The men at the back, the stock and yard men, filled
huge steel buckets or “skips” suspended from traveling cranes with ore,
fuel and limestone, all of which was piled near at hand; this material
was then trundled to a point over the mouth of the melting-vats, as they
were called, and “released” via a movable bottom. At this particular
plant I was told that the machinery for handling all this was better
than elsewhere, the company being richer and more progressive. In some
of the less progressive concerns the men filled carts with raw material
and then trundled them around to the front of a hoist, which was at the
back of the furnace, where they were lifted and dumped into the
furnaces. But in this mill all a man had to do to fill a steel bucket
with raw material was to push one of those steel buckets suspended from
a trolley under a chute and pull a rod, when the “stock” tumbled into
it. From these it was trundled, by machinery, to a point over the
furnace. The furnaces were charged or fed constantly by feeders working
in twelve-hour shifts, so that there was little chance to rest from
their labors. Their pay was not more than half of that paid to the men
at the “front” because it was neither so hard nor so skillful, although
it looked hard enough to me.

The men at the front, the puddlers, were the labor princes of this realm
and yet among the hardest worked. A puddling or blast furnace was a
brick structure like an oven, about seven feet high and six feet square,
with two compartments, one a receptacle into which pigiron was thrown,
the other a fuel chamber where the melting heat was generated. The
drafts were so arranged that the flame swept from the fuel chamber
directly upon the surface of the iron. From five to six hundred pounds
of pigiron were put into each furnace at one time, after which it was
closed and sufficient heat applied to melt down the iron. Then the
puddler began to work it with an iron rod through a hole in the furnace
door, so as to stir up the liquid and bring it in contact with the air.
As the impurities became separated from the iron and rose to the top as
slag, they were tipped out through a center notch. As it became freer
from impurities, a constantly higher temperature was required to keep
the iron in a liquid condition. Gradually it began to solidify in
granules, much as butter forms in churning. Later it took on or was
worked into large malleable balls or lumps or rolls like butter, three
to any given “charge” or furnace. Then, while still in a comparatively
soft but not molten condition, these were taken out and thrown across a
steel floor to a “taker” to be worked by other machinery and other
processes.

Puddling was a full-sized man’s job. There were always two, and
sometimes three, to a single furnace, and they took turns at working the
metal, as a rule ten minutes to a turn. No man could stand before a
furnace and perform that back-breaking toil continually. Even when
working by spells a man was often nearly exhausted at the end of his
spell. As a rule he had to go outside and sit on a bench, the
perspiration running off him. The intensity of the heat in those days
(1893) was not as yet relieved by the device of shielding the furnace
with water-cooled plates. The wages of these men was in the neighborhood
of three dollars a day, the highest then paid. Before the great strike
it had been more.

But the men who most fascinated me were the “roughers” who, once the
puddler had done his work and thrown his lump of red-hot iron out upon
an open hearth, and another man had taken it and thrown it to a
“rougher,” fed it into a second machine which rolled or beat it into a
more easily handled and workable form. The exact details of the process
escape me now, but I remember the picture they presented in those hot,
fire-lighted, noisy and sputtering rooms. Agility and even youth were at
a premium, and a false step possibly meant death. I remember watching
two men in the mill below Mt. Washington, one who pulled out billet
after billet from furnace after furnace and threw them along the steel
floor to the “rougher,” and the latter, who, dressed only in trousers
and a sleeveless flannel shirt, the sweat pouring from his body and his
muscles standing out in knots, took these same and, with the skill and
agility of a tight-rope performer, tossed them into the machine. He was
constantly leaping about thrusting the red billets which came almost in
a stream into or between the first pair of rolls for which they were
intended. And yet before he could turn back there was always another on
the floor behind him. The rolls into which he fed these billets were
built in a train, side by side in line, and as they went through one
pair they had to be seized by a “catcher” and shoved back through the
next. Back and forth, back and forth they went at an ever increasing
speed, until the catcher at the next to the last pair of rolls, seizing
the end of the rod as it came through, still red-hot, described with it
a fiery circle bending it back again to enter the last roll, from which
it passed into water. It was wonderful.

And yet these men were not looked upon as anything extraordinary. While
the places in which they worked were metal infernos and their toil of
the most intense and exacting character, they were not allowed to
organize to better their condition. The recent great victory of the
steel magnates had settled that. In that very city and elsewhere, these
magnates were rolling in wealth. Their profits were tumbling in so fast
that they scarcely knew what to do with them. Vast libraries and
universities were being built with their gifts. Immense mansions were
crowded with art and historic furniture. Their children were being sent
to special schools to be taught how to be ladies and gentlemen in a
democracy which they contemned; and on the other hand, these sweating
men were being denied an additional five or ten cents an hour and the
right to organize. If they protested or attempted to drive out imported
strike-breakers they were fired and State or Federal troops were called
in to protect the mills. They could not organize then, and they are not
organized now.

My friend Martyn, who was intensely sympathetic toward them, was still
more sympathetic toward the men who were not so skillful, mere day
laborers who received from one dollar to one-sixty-five at a time when
two a day was too little to support any one. He grew melodramatic as he
told me where these men lived and how they lived, and finally took me in
order that I might see for myself. Afterward, in the course of my
reportorial work, I came upon some of these neighborhoods and
individuals, and since they are all a part of the great fortune-building
era, and illustrate how democracy works in America, and how some great
fortunes were built, I propose to put down here a few pictures of things
that I saw. Wages varied from one to one-sixty-five a day for the
commonest laborer, three and even four a day for the skilled worker.
Rents, or what the cheaper workers, who constituted by far the greater
number, were able to pay, varied from two-fifteen per week, or
eight-sixty per month, to four-seventy-two per week, or twenty per
month.

And the type of places they could secure for this! I recall visiting a
two-room tenement in a court, the character of which first opened my
eyes to the type of home these workers endured. This court consisted of
four sides with an open space in the center. Three of these sides were
smoke-grimed wooden houses three stories in height; the fourth was an
ancient and odorous wooden stable, where the horses of a contractor were
kept. In the center of this court stood a circular wooden building or
lavatory with ten triangular compartments, each opening into one vault
or cesspool. Near this was one hydrant, the only water-supply for all
these homes or rooms. These two conveniences served twenty families,
Polish, Hungarian, Slavonic, Jewish, Negro, of from three to five people
each, living in the sixty-three rooms which made up the three grimy
sides above mentioned. There were twenty-seven children in these rooms,
for whom this court was their only playground. For twenty housewives
this was the only place where they could string their wash-lines. For
twenty tired, sweaty, unwashed husbands this was, aside from the saloon,
the only near and neighborly recreation and companionship center. Here
of a sweltering summer night, after playing cards and drinking beer,
they would frequently stretch themselves to sleep.

But this was not all. As waste pipes were wanting in the houses, heavy
tubs of water had to be carried in and out, and this in a smoky town
where a double amount of washing and cleaning was necessary. When the
weather permitted, the heavy washes were done in the yard. Then the
pavement of this populous court, covered with tubs, wringers, clothes
baskets and pools of soapy water, made a poor playground for children.
In addition to this, these lavatories must be used, and in consequence a
situation was created which may be better imagined than explained. Many
of the front windows of these apartments looked down on this center,
which was only a few yards from the kitchen windows, creating a neat,
sanitary and uplifting condition. While usually only two families used
one of these compartments, in some other courts three or four families
were compelled to use one, giving rise to indifference and a sense of
irresponsibility for their condition. While all the streets had sewers
and by borough ordinance these outside vaults must be connected with
them, still most of them were flushed only by waste water, which flowed
directly into them from the yard faucet. When conditions became
unbearable the vaults were washed out with a hose attached to the
hydrant, but in winter, when there was danger of freezing, this was not
always possible. There was not one indoor closet in any of these courts.

But to return to the apartment in question. The kitchen was steaming
with vapor from a big washtub set on a chair in the middle of the room.
The mother, who had carried the water in, was trying to wash and at the
same time keep the older of her two babies from tumbling into the tub of
scalding water that was standing on the floor. On one side of the room
was a huge puffy bed, with one feather tick to sleep on and another for
covering. Near the window was a sewing-machine, in a corner a melodeon,
and of course there was the inevitable cookstove, upon which was
simmering a pot of soup. To the left, in the second room, were one
boarder and the man of the house asleep. Two boarders, so I learned,
were at work, but at night would be home to sleep in the bed now
occupied by one boarder and the man of the house. The little family and
their boarders, taken to help out on the rent, worked and lived so in
order that Mr. Carnegie might give the world one or two extra libraries
with his name plastered on the front, and Mr. Frick a mansion on Fifth
Avenue.

It was to Martyn and his interest that I owed still other views. He took
me one day to a boardinghouse in which lived twenty-four people, all in
two rooms, and yet, to my astonishment and confusion, it was not so bad
as that other court, so great apparently is the value of intimate human
contact. Few of the very poor day laborers, as Martyn explained to me,
who were young and unmarried, cared how they lived so long as they lived
cheaply and could save a little. This particular boardinghouse in
Homestead was in a court such as I have described, and consisted of two
rooms, one above the other, each measuring perhaps 12 × 20. In the
kitchen at the time was the wife of the boarding boss cooking dinner.
Along one side of the room was an oilcloth-covered table with a plank
bench on each side; above it was a rack holding a long row of white
cups, and a shelf with tin knives and forks. Near the up-to-date range,
the only real piece of furniture in the room, hung the buckets in which
all mill men carried their noon or midnight meals. A crowd of men were
lounging cheerfully about, talking, smoking and enjoying life, one of
them playing a concertina. They were making the most of a brief spell
before their meal and departure for work. In the room above, as the
landlord cheerfully showed us, were double iron bedsteads set close
together and on them comfortables neatly laid.

In these two rooms lived, besides the boarding boss and his wife, both
stalwart Bulgarians, and their two babies, twenty men. They were those
Who handled steel billets and bars, unloaded and loaded trains, worked
in cinder pits, filled steel buckets with stock, and what not. They all
worked twelve hours a day, and their reward was this and what they could
save over and above it out of nine-sixty per week. Martyn said a good
thing about them at the time: “I don’t know how it is. I know these
people are exploited and misused. The mill-owners pay them the lowest
wages, the landlords exploit these boardinghouse keepers as well as
their boarders, and the community which they make by their work don’t
give a damn for them, and yet they are happy, and I’ll be hanged if they
don’t make me happy. It must be that just work is happiness,” and I
agreed with him. Plenty of work, something to do, the ability to avoid
the ennui of idleness and useless, pensive, futile thought!

There was another side that I thought was a part of all this, and that
was the “vice” situation. There were so many girls who walked the
streets here, and back of the _Dispatch_ and postoffice buildings, as
well as in the streets ranged along the Monongahela below Smithfield
(Water, First and Second), were many houses of disrepute, as large and
flourishing an area as I had seen in any city. As I learned from the
political and police man, the police here as elsewhere “protected” vice,
or in other words preyed upon it.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER LXII


IN the meantime I was going about my general work, and an easy task it
proved. My city editor, cool, speculative, diplomatic soul, soon
instructed me as to the value of news and its limitations here. “We
don’t touch on labor conditions except through our labor man,” he told
me, “and he knows what to say. There’s nothing to be said about the rich
or religious in a derogatory sense: they’re all right in so far as we
know. We don’t touch on scandals in high life. The big steel men here
just about own the place, so we can’t. Some papers out West and down in
New York go in for sensationalism, but we don’t. I’d rather have some
simple little feature any time, a story about some old fellow with
eccentric habits, than any of these scandals or tragedies. Of course we
do cover them when we have to, but we have to be mighty careful what we
say.”

So much for a free press in Pittsburgh, A.D. 1893!

And I found that the city itself, possibly by reason of the recent
defeat administered to organized labor and the soft pedal of the
newspapers, presented a most quiescent and somnolent aspect. There was
little local news. Suicides, occasional drownings, a wedding or death in
high society, a brawl in a saloon, the enlargement of a steel plant, the
visit of a celebrity or the remarks of some local pastor, provided the
pabulum on which the local readers were fed. Sometimes an outside event,
such as the organization by General Coxey, of Canton, Ohio, of his
“hobo” army, at that time moving toward Washington to petition congress
against the doings of the trusts; or the dictatorial and impossible
doings of Grover Cleveland, opposition President to the dominant party
of the State; or the manner in which the moribund Democratic party of
this region was attempting to steal an office or share in the
spoils—these and the grand comments of gentlemen in high financial
positions here and elsewhere as to the outlook for prosperity in the
nation or the steel mills or the coal fields, occupied the best places
in the newspapers. For a great metropolis as daring, forceful,
economically and socially restless as this, it seemed unbelievable that
it could be so quiescent or say so little about the colossal ambitions
animating the men at the top. But when it came to labor or the unions,
their restlessness or unholy anarchistic demands, or the trashy views of
a third-rate preacher complaining of looseness in dress or morals, or an
actor voicing his views on art, or a politician commenting on some
unimportant phase of our life, it was a very different matter. These
papers were then free enough to say their say.

I recall that Thomas B. Reed, then Speaker of the House, once passed
through the city and stopped off to visit some friendly steel magnate. I
was sent to interview him and obtain his views as to “General” Coxey’s
army, a band of poor mistaken theorists who imagined that by marching to
Washington and protesting to Congress they could compel a trust-dictated
American Senate and House to take cognizance of their woes. This able
statesman—and he was no fool, being at the time in the councils and
favor of the money power and looked upon as the probable Republican
Presidential nominee—pretended to me to believe that a vast national
menace lay in such a movement and protest.

“Why, it’s the same as revolution!” he ranted, washing his face in his
suite at the Monongahela, his suspenders swaying loosely about his fat
thighs. “It’s an unheard-of proceeding. For a hundred years the American
people have had a fixed and constitutional and democratic method of
procedure. They have their county and State and national conventions,
and their power of instructing delegates to the same. They can write any
plank they wish into any party platform, and compel its enforcement by
their votes. Now comes along a man who finds something that doesn’t just
suit his views, and instead of waiting and appealing to the regular
party councils, he organizes an army and proceeds to march on
Washington.”

“But he has been able to muster only three or four hundred men all
told,” I suggested mildly. “He doesn’t seem to be attracting many
followers.”

“The number of his followers isn’t the point,” he insisted. “If one man
can gather an army of five hundred, another can gather an army of ten or
five hundred thousand. That means revolution.”

“Yes,” I ventured. “But what about the thing of which they are
complaining?”

“It doesn’t matter what their grievance is,” he said somewhat testily.
“This is a government of law and prescribed political procedure. Our
people must abide by that.”

I was ready to agree, only I was thinking of the easy manner in which
delegates and elected representatives everywhere were ignoring the
interests if not the mandates of the body politic at large and listening
to the advice and needs of financiers and trust-builders. Already the
air was full of complaints against monopoly. Trusts and combinations of
every kind were being organized, and the people were being taxed
accordingly. All property, however come by, was sacred in America. The
least protest of the mass anywhere was revolutionary, or at least the
upwellings of worthless and never-to-be-countenanced malcontents. I
could not believe this. I firmly believed then, as I do now, that the
chains wherewith a rapidly developing financial oligarchy or autocracy
meant to bind a liberty-deluded mass were then and there being forged. I
felt then, as I do now, that the people of that day should have been
more alive to their interests, that they should have compelled, at
Washington or elsewhere, by peaceable political means if possible, by
dire and threatening uprisings if necessary, a more careful concern for
their interests than any congressman or senator or governor or
President, at that time or since, was giving them. As I talked to this
noble chairman of the House my heart was full of these sentiments, only
I did not deem it of any avail to argue with him. I was a mere cub
reporter and he was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, but I
had a keen contempt for the enthusiasm he manifested for law. When it
came to what the money barons wished, the manufacturers and trust
organizers hiding behind a huge and extortionate tariff wall, he was one
of their chief guards and political and congressional advocates. If you
doubt it look up his record.

But it was owing to this very careful interpretation of what was and
what was not news that I experienced some of the most delightful
newspaper hours of my life. Large features being scarce, I was assigned
to do “city hall and police, Allegheny,” as the assignment book used to
read, and with this mild task ahead of me I was in the habit of crossing
the Allegheny River into the city of Allegheny, where, ensconced in a
chair in the reporters’ room of the combined city hall and central
police station or in the Carnegie Public Library over the way, or in the
cool, central, shaded court of the Allegheny General Hospital, with the
head interne of which I soon made friends, I waited for something to
turn up. As is usual with all city and police and hospital officials
everywhere, the hope of favorable and often manufactured publicity
animating them, I was received most cordially. All I had to do was to
announce that I was from the _Dispatch_ and assigned to this bailiwick,
and I was informed as to anything of importance that had come to the
surface during the last ten or twelve hours. If there was nothing—and
usually there was not—I sat about with several other reporters or with
the head interne of the hospital, or, having no especial inquiry to
make, I crossed the street to Squire Daniels, whose office was in the
tree-shaded square facing this civic center, and here (a squire being
the equivalent of a petty police magistrate), inquired if anything had
come to his notice.

Squire Daniels, a large, bald, pink-faced individual of three
hundredweight, used of a sunny afternoon these warm Spring days to sit
out in front of his office, his chair tilted against his office wall or
a tree, and, with three or four cronies, retail the most delicious
stories of old-time political characters and incidents. He was a mine of
this sort of thing and an immense favorite in consequence with all the
newspaper men and politicians. I was introduced to him on my third or
fourth day in Allegheny as he was sitting out on his tilted chair, and
he surveyed me with a smile.

“From the _Dispatch_, eh? Well, take a chair if you can find one; if you
can’t, sit on the curb or in the doorway. Many’s the man I seen from the
_Dispatch_ in my time. Your boss, Harry Gaither, used to come around
here before he got to be city editor. So did your Sunday man, Funger.
There ain’t much news I can give you, but whatever there is you’re
welcome to it. I always treat all the boys alike,” and he smiled. Then
he proceeded with his tale, something about an old alderman or
politician who had painted a pig once in order to bring it up to certain
prize specifications and so won the prize, only to be found out later
because the “specifications” wore off. He had such a zestful way of
telling his stories as to compel laughter.

And then directly across the street to the east from the city hall was
the Allegheny Carnegie library, a very handsome building which
contained, in addition to the library, an auditorium in which had been
placed the usual “one of the largest” if not “the largest” pipe organ in
the world. This organ had one advantage: it was supplied with a paid
city organist, who on Sundays, Wednesdays and Saturdays entertained the
public with free recitals, and so capable was he that seats were at a
premium and standing-room only the rule unless one arrived far ahead of
time. This manifestation of interest on the part of the public pleased
me greatly and somehow qualified, if it did not atone for, Mr.
Carnegie’s indifference to the welfare of his employees.

But I was most impressed with the forty or fifty thousand volumes so
conveniently arranged that one could walk from stack to stack, looking
at the labels and satisfying one’s interest by browsing in the books.
The place had most comfortable window-nooks and chairs between stacks
and in alcoves. One afternoon, having nothing else to do, I came here
and by the merest chance picked up a volume entitled _The Wild Ass’s
Skin_ by the writer who so fascinated Wandell—Honoré de Balzac. I
examined it curiously, reading a preface which shimmered with his
praise. He was the great master of France. His _Comédie Humaine_ covered
every aspect of the human welter. His interpretations of character were
exhaustive and exact. His backgrounds were abundant, picturesque,
gorgeous. In Paris his home had been turned into a museum, and contained
his effects as they were at the time of his death.

I turned to the first page and began reading, and from then on until
dusk I sat in this charming alcove reading. A new and inviting door to
life had been suddenly thrown open to me. Here was one who saw, thought,
felt. Through him I saw a prospect so wide that it left me
breathless—all Paris, all France, all life through French eyes. Here was
one who had a tremendous and sensitive grasp of life, philosophic,
tolerant, patient, amused. At once I was personally identified with his
Raphael, his Rastignac, his Bixiou, his Bianchon. With Raphael I entered
the gaming-house in the Palais Royal, looked despairingly down into the
waters of the Seine from the Pont Royal, turned from it to the shop of
the dealer in antiques, was ignored by the perfect young lady before the
shop of the print-seller, attended the Taillefer banquet, suffered
horrors over the shrinking skin. The lady without a heart was all too
real. It was for me a literary revolution. Not only for the brilliant
and incisive manner with which Balzac grasped life and invented themes
whereby to present it, but for the fact that the types he handled with
most enthusiasm and skill—the brooding, seeking, ambitious beginner in
life’s social, political, artistic and commercial affairs (Rastignac,
Raphael, de Rubempre, Bianchon)—were, I thought, so much like myself.
Indeed, later taking up and consuming almost at a sitting _The Great Man
from the Provinces_, _Père Goriot_, _Cousin Pons_, _Cousin Bette_, it
was so easy to identify myself with the young and seeking aspirants. The
brilliant and intimate pictures of Parisian life, the exact flavor of
its politics, arts, sciences, religions, social goings to and fro
impressed me so as to accomplish for me what his imaginary magic skin
had done for his Raphael: transfer me bodily and without defect or lack
to the center as well as the circumference of the world which he was
describing. I knew his characters as well as he did, so magical was his
skill. His grand and somewhat pompous philosophical deductions, his easy
and offhand disposition of all manner of critical, social, political,
historical, religious problems, the manner in which he assumed as by
right of genius intimate and irrefutable knowledge of all subjects,
fascinated and captured me as the true method of the seer and the
genius. Oh, to possess an insight such as this! To know and be a part of
such a cosmos as Paris, to be able to go there, to work, to study,
suffer, rise, and even end in defeat if need be, so fascinatingly alive
were all the journeys of his puppets! What was Pittsburgh, what St.
Louis, what Chicago?—and yet, in spite of myself, while I adored his
Paris, still I was obtaining a new and more dramatic light on the world
in which I found myself. Pittsburgh was not Paris, America was not
France, but in truth they were something, and Pittsburgh at least had
aspects which somehow suggested Paris. These charming rivers, these many
little bridges, the sharp contrasts presented by the east end and the
mill regions, the huge industries here and their importance to the world
at large, impressed me more vividly than before. I was in a workaday,
begrimed, and yet vivid Paris. Taillefer, Nucingen, Valentin were no
different from some of the immense money magnets here, in their case,
luxury, power, at least the possibilities which they possessed.

Coming out of the library this day, and day after day thereafter, the
while I rendered as little reportorial service as was consistent with
even a show of effort, I marveled at the physical similarity of the two
cities as I conceived it, at the chance for pictures here as well as
there. American pictures here, as opposed to French pictures there. And
all the while I was riding with Lucien to Paris, with his mistress,
courting Madame Nucingen with Rastignac, brooding over the horror of the
automatically contracting skin with Raphael, poring over his miseries
with Goriot, practicing the horrible art of prostitution with Madame
Marneffe. For a period of four or five months I ate, slept, dreamed,
lived him and his characters and his views and his city. I cannot
imagine a greater joy and inspiration than I had in Balzac these Spring
and Summer days in Pittsburgh. Idyllic days, dreamy days, poetic days,
wonderful days, the while I ostensibly did “police and city hall” in
Allegheny.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER LXIII


IT would be unfair to myself not to indicate that I rendered an adequate
return for the stipend paid me. As a matter of fact, owing to the
peculiar character of the local news conditions, as well as my own
creative if poorly equipped literary instincts at the time, I was able
to render just such service as my employers craved, and that with
scarcely a wrench to my mental ease. For what they craved, more than
news of a dramatic or disturbing character, was some sort of idle
feature stuff which they could use in place of news and still interest
their readers. The Spring time, Balzac, the very picturesque city
itself, my own idling and yet reflective disposition, caused me finally
to attempt a series of mood or word-pictures about the most trivial
matters—a summer storm, a spring day, a visit to a hospital, the death
of an old switchman’s dog, the arrival of the first mosquito—which gave
me my first taste of what it means to be a creative writer.

The city editor asked me one day if I could not invent some kind of
feature, and I sat down and thought of one theme and another. Finally I
thought of the fly as a possible subject for an idle skit. Being young
and ambitious, and having just crawled out of a breeding-pit somewhere,
he alighted on the nearest fence or windowsill, brushed his head and
wings reflectively and meditated on the chances of a livelihood or a
career. What would be open to a young and ambitious fly in a world all
too crowded with flies? There were barns, of course, and kitchens and
horses and cows and pigs, but these fields were overrun, and this was a
sensitive and cleanly and meditative fly. Flying about here and there to
inspect the world, he encountered within a modest and respectable home a
shiny pate which seemed to offer a rather polished field of effort and
so on.

This idle thing which took me not more than three-quarters of an hour to
write and which I was almost afraid to submit, produced a remarkable
change in the attitude of the office, as well as in my life and career.
We had at this time as assistant city editor a small, retiring,
sentimental soul, Jim Israels, who was one of the most gracious and
approachable and lovable men I have ever known. He it was to whom I
turned over my skit. He took it with an air of kindly consideration and
helpfulness.

“Trying to help us out, are you?” he said with a smile, and then added
when I predicated its worthlessness: “Well, it’s not such an easy thing
to turn out that stuff. I hope it’s something the chief will like.”

He took it and, as I noticed, for I hung about to see, read it at once,
and I saw him begin to smile and finally chuckle.

“This thing’s all right,” he called. “You needn’t worry. Gaither’ll be
pleased with this, I know,” and he began to edit it.

I went out to walk and think, for I had nothing to do except wander over
to Allegheny to find out if anything had turned up.

When I returned at six I was greeted by my city editor with a smile and
told that if I would I could do that sort of thing as much as I liked.
“Try and get up something for tomorrow, will you?” I said I would try.
The next day, a Spring rain descending with wonderful clouds and a
magnificent electrical display, I described how the city, dry and smoky
and dirty, lay panting in the deadening heat and how out of the west
came, like an answer to a prayer, this sudden and soothing storm,
battalion upon battalion of huge clouds riven with great silvery flashes
of light, darkening the sun as they came; and how suddenly, while
shutters clapped and papers flew and office windows and doors had to be
closed and signs squeaked and swung and people everywhere ran to cover,
the thousands upon thousands who had been enduring the heat heaved a
sigh of gratitude. I described how the steel tenements, the homes of the
rich, the office buildings, the factories, the hospitals and jails
changed under these conditions. and then ventured to give specific
incidents and pictures of animals and men.

This was received with congratulations, especially from the assistant
editor, who was more partial to anything sentimental than his chief. But
I, feeling that I had hit upon a vein of my own, was not inclined to
favor the moods of either but to write such things as appealed to me
most. This I did from day to day, wandering out into the country or into
strange neighborhoods for ideas and so varying my studies as my mood
dictated. I noticed, however, that my more serious attempts were not so
popular as the lighter and sillier things. This might have been a guide
to me, had I been so inclined, leading to an easy and popular success;
but by instinct and observation I was inclined to be interested in the
larger and more tragic phases of life. Mere humor, such as I could
achieve when I chose, seemed always to require for its foundation the
most trivial of incidents, whereas huge and massive conditions underlay
tragedy and all the more forceful aspects of life.

But what pleased and surprised me was the manner in which these lighter
as well as the more serious things were received and the change they
made in my standing. Hitherto I was merely a newcomer being tested and
by no means secure in my hold on this position. Now, of a sudden, my
status was entirely changed. I was a feature man, one who had succeeded
where others apparently had failed, and so I was made more than welcome.
To my surprise, my city editor one day asked me whether I had had my
lunch. I gladly availed myself of a chance to talk to him, and he told
me a little something of local journalistic life, who the publisher of
this paper was, his politics and views. The assistant editor asked me to
dinner. The Sunday editor, the chief political reporter, the chief city
hall and police man grew friendly; I went to lunch or dinner with one or
the other, was taken to the Press Club after midnight, and occasionally
to a theater by the dramatic man. Finally I was asked to contribute
something to the Sunday papers, and later still asked to help the
dramatic man with criticisms.

I was a little puzzled and made quite nervous though not vain by this
sudden change. The managing editor came to talk familiarly with me, and
after him the son of the publisher, fresh from a European trip. But when
he told me how interested he was in the kind of thing I was doing and
that he wished he “could write like that,” I remember feeling a little
envious of him, with his fine clothes and easy manner. An invitation to
dine at his home soothed me in no way. I never went. There was some talk
of sending me to report a proposed commercial conference (at Buffalo, I
believe), looking to the construction of a ship canal from Erie or
Buffalo to Pittsburgh, but it interested me not at all. I had no
interest in those things, really not in newspaper work, and yet I
scarcely knew what I wanted to do if not that. One thing is sure: I had
no commercial sense whereby I might have profited by all this. After the
second or third sketch had been published there was a decided list in my
direction, and I might have utilized my success. Instead, I merely
mooned and dreamed as before, reading at the Carnegie Library, going out
on assignments or writing one of these sketches and then going home
again or to the Press Club. I gathered all sorts of data as to the steel
magnates—Carnegie, Phipps and Frick especially—their homes, their clubs,
their local condescensions and superiorities. The people of Pittsburgh
were looked upon as vassals by some of these, and their interviews on
returning from the seashore or the mountains partook of the nature of a
royal return.

I remember being sent once to the Duquesne Club to interview Andrew
Carnegie, fresh from his travels abroad, and being received by a
secretary who allowed me to stand in the back of a room in which Mr.
Carnegie, short, stocky, bandy-legged, a grand air of authority
investing him, was addressing the élite of the city on the subject of
America and its political needs. No note-taking was permitted, but I was
later handed a typewritten address to the people of Pittsburgh and told
that the _Dispatch_ would be allowed to publish that. And it did. I
smiled then, and I smile now, at the attitude of press, pulpit,
officials of this amazing city of steel and iron where one and all
seemed so genuflective and boot-licking, and yet seemed not to profit to
any great degree by the presence of these magnates, who were constantly
hinting at removing elsewhere unless they were treated thus and so—as
though the life of a great and forceful metropolis depended on them
alone.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER LXIV


IT was about this time that I began to establish cordial relations with
the short, broad-shouldered, sad-faced labor reporter whom I have
previously mentioned. At first he appeared to be a little shy of me, but
as time passed and I seemed to have established myself in the favor of
the paper, he became more friendly. He was really a radical at heart,
but did not dare let it be known here. Often of a morning he would spend
as much as two hours with me, discussing the nature of coal-mining and
steel-making, the difficulty of arranging wage conditions which would
satisfy all the men and not cause friction; but in the main he commented
on the shrewd and cunning way in which the bosses were more and more
overreaching their employees, preying upon their prejudices by religious
and political dodges, and at the same time misusing them shamefully
through the company store, the short ton, the cost of mining materials,
rent. At first, knowing nothing about the situation, I was inclined to
doubt whether he was as sound in these matters as he seemed to be.
Later, as I grew in personal knowledge, I thought he might be too
conservative, so painful did many of the things seem which I saw with my
own eyes and his aid.

                  *       *       *       *       *

About this time several things conspired to stir up my feelings in
regard to New York. The Pittsburgh papers gave great space to New York
events and affairs, much more than did most of the mid-Western papers.
There was a millionaire steel colony here which was trying to connect
itself with the so-called “Four Hundred” of New York, as well as the
royal social atmosphere of England and France; and the comings and
goings and doings of these people at Newport, New York, Bar Harbor,
London and Paris were fully chronicled. Occasionally I was sent to one
or another of these great homes to ask about the details of certain
marriages or proposed trips, and would find the people in the midst of
the most luxurious preparations. One night, for instance, I was sent to
ask a certain steel man about the rumored resumption or extension of
work in one of the mills. His house was but a dot on a great estate, the
reaching of which was very difficult. I found him about ten o’clock at
night stepping into a carriage to be driven to the local station, which
was at the foot of the grounds. Although I was going to the same station
in order to catch a local back to the city, he did not ask me to
accompany him. Instead he paused on the step of his carriage to say that
he could not say definitely whether the work would be done or not. He
was entirely surrounded by bags, a gun, a fishing basket and other
paraphernalia, after which of course a servant was looking. When he was
gone I walked along the same road to the same station, and saw him
standing there. Another man came up and greeted him.

“Going down to New York, George?” he inquired.

“No, to the Chesapeake. My lodge man tells me ducks are plentiful there
now, and I thought I’d run down and get a few.”

The through train, which had been ordered to stop for him, rolled in and
he was gone. I waited for my smoky local, marveling at the comfort and
ease which had been already attained by a man of not more than
forty-five years of age.

But there were other things which seemed always to talk to me of New
York, New York. I picked up a new weekly, the _Standard_, one evening,
and found a theatrical paper of the most pornographic and alluring
character which pretended to report with accuracy all the gayeties of
the stage, the clubs, the tenderloins or white-light districts, as well
as society of the racier and more spendthrift character. This paper
spoke only of pleasure: yacht parties, midnight suppers, dances, scenes
behind the stage and of blissful young stars of the theatrical, social
and money worlds. Here were ease and luxury! In New York, plainly, was
all this, and I might go there and by some fluke of chance taste of it.
I studied this paper by the hour, dreaming of all it suggested.

And there was _Munsey’s_, the first and most successful of all the
ten-cent magazines then coming into existence and being fed to the
public by the ton. I saw it first piled in high stacks before a news and
book store in Pittsburgh. The size of the pile of magazines and the
price induced a cursory examination, although I had never even heard of
it before. Poor as it was intellectually—and it was poor—it contained an
entire section of highly-coated paper devoted to actresses, the stage
and scenes from plays, and still another carrying pictures of beauties
in society in different cities, and still another devoted to successful
men in Wall Street. It breathed mostly of New York, its social doings,
its art and literary colonies. It fired me with an ambition to see New
York.

A third paper, _Town Topics_, was the best of all, a paper most
brilliantly edited by a man of exceptional literary skill (C. M. S.
McLellan). It related to exclusive society in New York, London and
Paris, the houses, palaces, yachts, restaurants and hotels, the goings
and comings of the owners; and although it really poked fun at all this
and other forms of existence elsewhere, still there was an element of
envy and delight in it also which fitted my mood. It gave one the
impression that there existed in New York, Newport and elsewhere (London
principally) a kind of Elysian realm in which forever basked the elect
of fortune. Here was neither want nor care.

How I brooded over all this, the marriages and rumors of marriages, the
travels, engagements, feasts such as a score of facile novelists
subsequently succeeded in picturizing to the entertainment and
disturbance of rural America. For me this realm was all flowers,
sunshine, smart restaurants, glistering ballrooms, ease, comfort, beauty
arrayed as only enchantment or a modern newspaper Sunday supplement can
array it. And while I knew that back of it must be the hard contentions
and realities such as everywhere hold and characterize life, still I
didn’t know. In reading these papers I refused to allow myself to cut
through to the reality. Life must hold some such realm as this, and
spiritually I belonged to it. But I was already twenty-three, and what
had I accomplished? I wished most of all now to go to New York and enter
the realm pictured by these papers. Why not? I might bag an heiress or
capture fortune in some other way. I must save some money, I told
myself. Then, financially fortified, against starvation at least, I
might reconnoiter the great city and—who knows?—perhaps conquer.
Balzac’s heroes had seemed to do so, why not I? It is written of the
Dragon God of China that in the beginning it swallowed the world.

And to cap it all about this time I had a letter from my good brother,
in which he asked me how long I would be “piking” about the West when I
ought to be in New York. I should come this summer, when New York was at
its best. He would show me Broadway, Manhattan Beach, a dozen worlds. He
would introduce me to some New York newspaper men who would introduce me
to the managers of the _World_ and the _Sun_. (The mere mention of these
papers, so overawed was I by the fames of Dana and Pulitzer, frightened
me.) I ought to be on a paper like the _Sun_, he said, since to him Dana
was the greatest editor in New York. I meditated over this, deciding
that I would go when I had more money. I then and there started a bank
account, putting in as much as ten or twelve dollars each week, and in a
month or two began to feel that sense of security which a little money
gives one.

Another thing which had a strange psychologic effect on me at the time,
as indeed it appeared to have on most of the intelligentsia of America,
was the publication in _Harper’s_ this spring and summer of George Du
Maurier’s _Trilby_. I have often doubted the import of novel-writing in
general, but viewing the effect of that particular work on me as well as
on others one might as well doubt the import of power or fame or emotion
of any kind. The effect of this book was not so much one of great
reality and insight such as Balzac at times managed to convey, but
rather of an exotic mood or perfume of memory and romance conveyed by
some one who is in love with that memory and improvising upon it as
musicians do upon a theme. Instanter I saw Paris and Trilby and the Jew
with his marvelous eyes. Trilby being hypnotized and carried away from
Little Billee seemed to me then of the essence of great tragedy. I
myself fairly suffered, walking about and dreaming, the while I awaited
the one or two final portions. I was lost in the beauty of Paris, the
delight of studio life, and resented more than ever, as one might a
great deprivation, the need of living in a land where there was nothing
but work.

And yet America and this city were fascinating enough to me. But because
of the preponderant influence of foreign letters on American life it
seemed that Paris and London must be so much better since every one
wrote about them. Like Balzac’s _Great Man from the Provinces_, this
book seemed to connect itself with my own life and the tragedy of not
having the means to marry at this time, and of being compelled to wander
about in this way unable to support a wife. At last I became so wrought
up that I was quite beside myself. I pictured myself as a Little Billee
who would eventually lose by poverty, as he by trickery, the thing I
most craved: my Western sweetheart. Meditating on this I vented some of
my misery in the form of sentimental vaporizings in my feature articles,
which were all liked well enough but which seemed merely to heighten my
misery. Finally, some sentimental letters being exchanged between myself
and my love, I felt an uncontrollable impulse to return and see her and
St. Louis before I went farther away perhaps never to return. The sense
of an irrecoverable past which had pervaded _Trilby_ had, I think,
something to do with this, so interfused and interfusing are all
thoughts and moods. At any rate, having by now considerable influence
with this paper, I proposed a short vacation, and the city editor,
wishing no doubt to propitiate me, suggested that the paper would be
glad to provide me with transportation both ways. So I made haste to
announce a grand return, not only to my intended but to McCord, Wood and
several others who were still in St. Louis.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER LXV


AS one looks back on youth so much of it appears ridiculous and
maundering and without an essential impulse or direction, and yet as I
look at life itself I am not sure but that indirection or unimportant
idlings are a part of life’s method. We often think we are doing some
vastly important thing, whereas in reality we are merely marking time.
At other times, when we appear to be marking time we are growing or
achieving at a great rate; and so it may have been with me. Instead of
pushing on to New York, I chose to return to St. Louis and grasp one
more hour of exquisite romance, drink one more cup of love. And whether
it profited me save as pleasure is profit I cannot tell. Only, may not
pleasure be the ultimate profit?

This trip to St. Louis was for me a most pivotal and deranging thing,
probably a great mistake. At that time, of course, I could not see that.
Instead, I was completely lost in the grip of a passion that
subsequently proved detrimental or devastating. The reality which I was
seeking to establish was a temporary contact only. Any really beautiful
girl or any idyllic scene could have done for me all the things that
this particular girl and scene could do, only thus far I had chanced to
meet no other who could displace her. And in a way I knew this then,
only I realized also that one beautiful specimen was as good a key to
the lock of earthly delights as another.... Only there were so many
locks or chambers to which one key would fit, and how sad, in youth at
least, not to have all the locks, or at least a giant illusion as to
one!

                  *       *       *       *       *

This return began with a long hot trip in July to St. Louis, and then a
quick change in the Union Station there at evening which brought me by
midnight to the small town in the backwoods of Missouri, near which she
lived. It was hot. I recall the wide hot fields and small wooden towns
of Southern Ohio and Indiana and this Missouri landscape in the
night—the frogs, the katydids, the summer stars. I ached and yearned,
not so much over her as over youth and love and the evanescence of all
material fires. The spirit of youth cried and sang at the same time.

The little cottages with their single yellow light shining in the fields
through which this dusty train ran! The perfumed winds!

At last the train stopped and left me standing at midnight on a wooden
platform with no one to greet me. The train was late. A liveryman who
was supposed to look after me did not. At a lone window sat the
telegraph operator, station-master, baggage-agent all in one, a green
shield shading his eyes. Otherwise the station was bare and silent save
for the katydids in some weeds near at hand and some chirping
tree-toads. The agent told me that a hotel was a part of this station,
run by this railroad. Upstairs, over the baggage and other rooms, were a
few large barn-like sleeping chambers, carpetless, dusty, cindery, the
windows curtainless and broken in places, and save for some all but
slatless shutters unshielded from the world and the night. I placed a
chair against my door, my purse under my pillow, my bag near at hand.
During the night several long freights thundered by, their headlights
lighting the room; yet, lying on a mattress of straw and listening to
the frogs and katydids outside, I slept just the same. The next morning
I tied a handkerchief over my eyes and slept some more, arising about
ten to continue my journey.

The home to which I was going was part of an old decayed village, once a
point on a trail or stage-coach route, once the prospective capital of
the State, but now nothing. A courthouse and some quaint tree-shaded
homes were all but lost or islanded in a sea of corn. I rode out a long,
hot, dusty road and finally up a long tree-shaded lane to its very end,
where I passed through a gate and at the far end came upon a worn,
faded, rain-rotted house facing a row of trees in a wide lawn. I felt
that never before had I been so impressed with a region and a home. It
was all so simple. The house, though old and decayed, was exquisite. The
old French windows—copied from where and by whom?—reaching to the grass;
the long graceful rooms, the cool hall, the veranda before it, so very
Southern in quality, the flowers about every window and door! I found a
home in which lived a poverty-stricken and yet spiritually impressive
patriarch, a mother who might serve as an American tradition so simple
and gracious was she, sisters and brothers who were reared in an
atmosphere which somehow induced a gracious, sympathetic idealism and
consideration. Poor as they were, they were the best of the families
here. The father had been an office-holder and one of the district
leaders in his day, and one of his sons still held an office. A
son-in-law was the district master of this entire congressional
district, which included seven counties, and could almost make or break
a congressman. All but three daughters were married, and I was engaged
to one of the remaining ones. Another, too beautiful and too hoyden to
think of any one in particular, was teaching school, or playing at it. A
farm of forty acres to the south of the house was tilled by the father
and two sons.

Elsewhere I have indicated this atmosphere, but here I like to touch on
it again. We Americans have home traditions or ideals, created as much
by song and romance as anything else: _My Old Kentucky Home_, _Suwanee
River_. Despite any willing on my part, this home seemed to fulfill the
spirit of those songs. There was something so sadly romantic about it.
The shade of the great trees moved across the lawn in stately and
lengthening curves. A stream at the foot of the slope leading down from
the west side of the house dimpled and whimpered in the sun. Birds sang,
and there were golden bees about the flowers and wasps under the eaves
of the house. Hammocks of barrel—staves, and others of better texture,
were strung between the trees. In a nearby barn of quaint design were
several good horses, and there were cows in the field adjoining. Ducks
and geese solemnly padded to and fro between the house and the stream.
The air was redolent of corn, wheat, clover, timothy, flowers.

To me it seemed that all the spirit of rural America, its idealism, its
dreams, the passion of a Brown, the courage and patience and sadness of
a Lincoln, the dreams and courage of a Lee or a Jackson, were all here.
The very soil smacked of American idealism and faith, a fixedness in
sentimental and purely imaginative American tradition, in which I, alas!
could not share. I was enraptured. Out of its charms and sentiments I
might have composed an elegy or an epic, but I could not believe that it
was more than a frail flower of romance. I had seen Pittsburgh.... I had
seen Lithuanians and Hungarians in their “courts” and hovels. I had seen
the girls of that city walking the streets at night. This profound faith
in God, in goodness, in virtue and duty that I saw here in no wise
squared with the craft, the cruelty, the brutality and the envy that I
saw everywhere else. These parents were gracious and God-fearing, but to
me they seemed asleep. They did not know life—could not. These boys and
girls, as I soon found, respected love and marriage and duty and other
things which the idealistic American still clings to.

Outside was all this other life that I had seen of which apparently
these people knew nothing. They were as if suspended in dreams, lotus
eaters, and my beloved was lost in this same romance. I was thinking of
her beauty, her wealth of hair, the color of her cheeks, the beauty of
her figure, of what she might be to me. She might have been thinking of
the same thing, possibly more indirectly, but also she was thinking of
the dignity and duty and sanctity of marriage. For her, marriage and one
love were for life. For myself, whether I admitted it or not, love was a
thing much less stable. Indeed I was not thinking of marriage at all,
but rather whether I could be happy here and now, and how much I could
extract out of love. Or perhaps, to be just to myself, I was as much a
victim of passion and romance as she was, only to the two of us it did
not mean the same thing. Unconsciously I identified her with the beauty
of all I saw, and at the same time felt that it was all so different
from anything I knew or believed that I wondered how she would fit in
with the kind of life toward which I was moving. How overcome this
rigidity in duty and truth?

Both of us being inflamed, it was the most difficult thing for me to
look upon her and not crave her physically, and, as she later admitted,
she felt the same yearning toward me. At the time, however, she was all
but horrified at a thought which ran counter to all the principles
impressed upon her since early youth. There was thus set up between us
in this delightful atmosphere a conflict between tradition and desire.
The hot faint breezes about the house and in the trees seemed to whisper
of secret and forbidden contact. The perfumes of the thickly grown beds
of flowers, the languorous sultry heat of the afternoon and night, the
ripening and blooming fields beyond, the drowsy, still, starry nights
with their hum of insects and croak of frogs and the purrs and whimpers
and barks of animals, seemed to call for but one thing. There was about
her an intense delight in living. No doubt she longed as much to be
seized as I to seize her, and yet there was a moral elusiveness which
added even more to the chase. I wished to take her then and not wait,
but the prejudices of a most careful rearing frightened and deterred
her. And yet I shall always feel that the impulse was better than the
forces which confuted and subsequently defeated it. For then was the
time to unite, not years later when, however much the economic and
social and religious conditions which are supposed to surround and
safeguard such unions had been fulfilled, my zest for her, and no doubt
hers in part for me, had worn away.

Love should act in its heat, not when its bank account is heavy. The
chemic formula which works to reproduce the species, and the most vital
examples at that, is not concerned with the petty local and social
restraints which govern all this. Life if it wants anything wants
children, and healthy ones, and the weighing and binding rules which
govern their coming and training may easily become too restrictive.
Nature’s way is correct, her impulses sound. The delight of possessing
my fiancée then would have repaid her for her fears. and me for
ruthlessness if I had taken her. A clearer and a better grasp of life
would have been hers and mine. The coward sips little of life, the
strong man drinks deep. Old prejudices must always fall, and life must
always change. It is the law.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER LXVI


AND so this romance ended for me. At the time, of course, I did not know
it; on leaving her I was under the impression that I was more than ever
attached to her. In the face of this postponement, life took on a grayer
and more disappointing aspect. To be forced to wait when at that moment,
if ever, was the time!

And yet I told myself that better days were surely in store. I would
return East and in some way place myself so that soon we might be
reunited. It was a figment of hope. By the time I was finally capable of
maintaining her economically, my earlier mood had changed. That hour
which we had known, or might have known, had gone forever. I had seen
more of life, more of other women, and although even then she was by no
means unattractive the original yearning had vanished. She was now but
one of many, and there were those who were younger and more
sophisticated, even more attractive.

And yet, before I left her, what days! The sunshine! The lounging under
the trees! The drowsy summer heat! The wishing for what might not be!
Having decided that her wish was genuine and my impulse to comply with
it wise, I stood by it, wishing that it might be otherwise. I consoled
myself thinly with the thought that the future must bring us together,
and then left, journeying first to St. Louis and later to New York. For
while I was here that letter from my brother which urged me once more to
come to New York was forwarded to me. Just before leaving Pittsburgh I
had sent him a collection of those silly “features” I had been writing,
and he also was impressed. I must come to New York. Some metropolitan
paper was the place for me and my material. Anyhow, I would enjoy
visiting there in the summer time more than later. I wired him that I
would arrive at a certain time, and then set out for St. Louis and a
visit among my old newspaper friends there.

I do not know how most people take return visits, but I have often noted
that it has only been as I have grown older and emotionally less mobile
that they have become less and less significant to me. In my earlier
years nothing could have been more poignant or more melancholy than my
thoughts on any of these occasions. Whenever I returned to any place in
which I had once lived and found things changed, as they always were, I
was fairly transfixed by the oppressive sense of the evanescence of
everything; a mood so hurtful and dark and yet with so rich if sullen a
luster that I was left wordless with pain. I was all but crucified at
realizing how unimportant I was, how nothing stayed but all changed.
Scenes passed, never to be recaptured. Moods came and friendships and
loves, and were gone forever. Life was perpetually moving on. The
beautiful pattern of which each of us, but more especially myself, was a
part, was changing from day to day, so that things which were an anchor
and a comfort and delight yesterday were tomorrow no more. And though
perhaps innately I desired change, or at least appropriate and agreeable
changes for myself, I did not wish this other, this exterior world to
shift, and that under my very eyes.

The most haunting and disturbing thought always was that hourly I was
growing older. Life was so brief, such a very little cup at best, and so
soon, whatever its miserable amount or character, it would be gone. Some
had strength or capacity or looks or fortune, or all, at their command,
and then all the world was theirs to travel over and explore. Beauty and
ease were theirs, and love perhaps, and the companionship of interesting
and capable people; but I, poor waif, with no definite or arresting
skill of any kind, not even that of commerce, must go fumbling about
looking in upon life from the outside, as it were. Beautiful women, or
so I argued, were drawn to any but me. The great opportunities of the
day in trade and commerce were for any but me. I should never have a
fraction of the means to do as I wished or to share in the life that I
most craved. I was an Ishmael, a wanderer.

In St. Louis I was oppressed beyond words. Of the newspaper men who had
been living on the same floor with me in Broadway there was not one
left. At the _Globe-Democrat_ already reigned a new city editor. My two
friends, Wood and McCord, while delighted to see me, told me of those
who had already gone and seemed immersed in many things that had arisen
since I had gone and were curious as to why I should have returned at
all. I hung about for a day or two, wondering all the while why I did
so, and then took the train going East.

Of all my journeys thus far this to New York was the most impressive. It
took on at once, the moment I left St. Louis, the character of a great
adventure, for it was all unknown and enticing. For years my mind had
been centered on it. True to the law of gravitation, its pull was in
proportion to its ever increasing size. As a boy in Indiana, and later
in Chicago, I had read daily papers sent on from New York by my sister
E——, who lived there. In Chicago, owing to a rivalry which existed on
Chicago’s part (not on New York’s, I am sure), the papers were studded
with invidious comments which, like all poorly based criticism, only
served to emphasize the salient and impressive features of the greater
city. It had an elevated road that ran through its long streets on
stilts of steel and carried hundreds of thousands if not millions in the
miniature trains drawn by small engines. It was a long, heavily
populated island surrounded by great rivers, and was America’s ocean
door to Europe. It had the great Brooklyn Bridge, then unparalleled
anywhere, Wall Street, Jay Gould, Cornelius Vanderbilt, a huge company
of millionaires. It had Tammany Hall, the Statue of Liberty, unveiled
not so many years before (when I was a boy in Southern Indiana), Madison
Square Garden, the Metropolitan Opera House, the Horse Show. It was the
center and home of fashionable society, of all fixed and itinerant
actors and actresses. All great theatrical successes began there. Of
papers of largest circulation and greatest fame, it had nearly all. As
an ignorant understrapper I had often contended, and that noisily, with
various passing atoms of New York, as condescending as I was ignorant
and stubborn, as to the relative merits of New York and Chicago, New
York and St. Louis! There could not be so much difference! There were
many great things in these minor places! Some day, surely, Chicago would
outstrip New York!... Well, I lived to see many changes and things, but
not that. Instead I saw the great city grow and grow, until it stood
unrivaled, for size and force and wealth at least, anywhere.

And now after all these tentative adventurings I was at last to enter
it. Although I was moderately well-placed in Pittsburgh and not coming
as a homeless, penniless seeker, still even now I was dreadfully afraid
of it—why, I cannot say. Perhaps it was because it was so immense and
mentally so much more commanding. Still I consoled myself with the
thought that this was only a visit and I was to have a chance to explore
it without feeling that I had to make my way then and there.

I recall clearly the hot late afternoon in July when, after stopping off
at Pittsburgh to refresh myself and secure a change of clothing, I took
the train for New York. I noted with eager, hungry eyes a succession of
dreary forge and mining towns, miles of blazing coke ovens paralleling
the track and lighting these regions with a lurid glow after dusk, huge
dark hills occasionally twinkling with a feeble light or two. I spent a
half-wakeful night in the berth, dreaming and meditating in a nervous
chemic way. Before dawn I was awake and watching our passage through
Philadelphia, then Trenton, New Brunswick, Metuchen, Menlo Park, Rahway,
Elizabeth and Newark. Of all of these, save only Menlo Park, the home of
Edison, who was then invariably referred to by journalists and
paragraphers as “The Wizard of Menlo Park,” I knew nothing.

As we neared New York at seven the sky was overcast, and at Newark it
began to drizzle. When I stepped down it was pouring, and there at the
end of a long train-shed, the immense steel and glass affair that once
stood in Jersey City opposite Cortlandt Street of New York, awaited my
fat and smiling brother, as sweet-faced and gay and hopeful as a child.
At once, he began as was his way, a patter of jests and inquiries as to
my trip, then led me to a ferry entrance, one of a half dozen in a row,
through which, as through the proscenium arch of a stage, I caught my
first glimpse of the great Hudson. A heavy mist of rain was suspended
over it through which might be seen dimly the walls of the great city
beyond. Puffing and squatty tugs, as graceful as fat ducks, attended by
overhanging plumes of smoke, chugged noisily in the foreground of water.
At the foot of the outline of the city beyond, only a few skyscrapers
having as yet appeared, lay a fringe of ships and docks and ferry
houses. No ferry boat being present, we needs must wait for one labeled
Desbrosses, as was labeled the slip in which we stood.

But I was talking to my brother and learning of his life here and of
that of my sister E——, with whom he was living. The ferry boat
eventually came into the slip and discharged a large crowd, and we,
along with a vast company of commuters and travelers, entered it. Its
center, as I noted, was stuffed with vehicles of all sizes and
descriptions, those carrying light merchandise as well as others
carrying coal and stone and lumber and beer. I can recall to this hour
the odor of ammonia and saltpeter so characteristic of the ferry boats
and ferry houses, the crowd in the ferry house on the New York side
waiting to cross over once we arrived there, and the miserable little
horse-cars, then still trundling along West Street and between
Fourteenth and Broadway and the ferries, and Gansevoort Market. These
were drawn by one horse, and you deposited your fare yourself.

And this in the city of elevated roads!

But the car which we boarded had two horses. We traveled up West Street
from Desbrosses to Christopher and thence along that shabby old
thoroughfare to Sixth Avenue and Fourteenth Street, where we changed. At
first, aside from the sea and the boats and the sense of hugeness which
goes with immense populations everywhere, I was disappointed by the
seeming meanness of the streets. Many of them were still paved with
cobblestones, like the oldest parts of St. Louis and Pittsburgh. The
buildings, houses and stores alike, were for the most part of a shabby
red in color and varying in height from one to six stories, most of them
of an aged and contemptible appearance. This was, as I soon learned from
my serene and confident brother, an old and shabby portion of the city.
These horse-cars, in fact, were one of the jokes of the city, but they
added to its variety. “Don’t think that they haven’t anything else. This
is just the New York way. It has the new and the old mixed. Wait’ll
you’re here a little while. You’ll be like everybody else—there’ll be
just one place: New York.”

And so it proved after a time.

The truth was that the city then, for the first time in a half century
if not longer, was but beginning to emerge from a frightful period of
misrule at the hands of as evil a band of mercenaries as ever garroted a
body politic. It was still being looted and preyed upon in a most
shameful manner. Graft and vice stalked hand-in-hand. Although Tammany
Hall, the head and center of all the graft and robbery and vice and
crime protection, had been delivered a stunning blow by a reform wave
which had temporarily ousted it and placed reform officials over the
city, still the grip of that organization had not relaxed. The police
and all minor officials, as well as the workmen of all departments were
still, under the very noses of the newly elected officials, perhaps with
their aid, collecting graft and tribute. The Reverend Doctor Parkhurst
was preaching, like Savonarola, the destruction of these corruptions of
the city.

When I arrived, the streets were not cleaned or well-lighted, their ways
not adequately protected or regulated as to traffic. Uncollected garbage
lay in piles, the while the city was paying enormous sums for its
collection; small and feeble gas-jets fluttered, when in other cities
the arc-light had for fifteen years been a commonplace. As we dragged
on, on this slow-moving car, the bells on the necks of the horses
tinkling rhythmically, I stared and commented.

“Well, you can’t say that this is very much.”

“My boy,” cautioned my good and cheerful brother, “you haven’t seen
anything yet. This is just an old part of New York. Wait’ll you see
Broadway and Fifth Avenue. We’re just coming this way because it’s the
quickest way home.”

When we reached Fourteenth Street and Sixth Avenue I was very
differently impressed. We had traveled for a little way under an
elevated road over which trains thundered, and as we stepped down I
beheld an impressively wide thoroughfare, surging even at this hour in
the morning with people. Here was Macy’s, and northward stretched an
area which I was told was the shopping center of the vast metropolis:
Altman’s, Ehrich’s, O’Neill’s, Adams’, Simpson-Crawford’s, all huge
stores and all in a row lining the west side of the street. We made our
way across Fifteenth Street to the entrance of a narrow brownstone
apartment house and ascended two flights, waiting in a rather
poorly-lighted hall for an answer to our ring. The door was eventually
opened by my sister, whom I had not seen since my mother’s death four
years before. She had become stout. The trim beauty for which a very few
years before she had been notable had entirely disappeared. I was
disappointed at first, but was soon reassured and comforted by an
inherently kindly and genial disposition, which expressed itself in much
talking and laughing.

“Why, Theodore, I’m so glad to see you! Take off your things. Did you
have a pleasant trip? George, here’s Theodore. This is my husband,
Theodore. Come on back, you and Paul,” so she rattled on.

I studied her husband, whom I had not seen before, a dark and shrewd and
hawklike person who seemed to be always following me with his eyes. He
was an American of middle-Western extraction but with a Latin complexion
and Latin eyes.

E——’s two children were brought forward, a boy and a girl four and two
years of age respectively. A breakfast table was waiting, at which Paul
had already seated himself.

“Now, my boy,” he began, “this is where you eat real food once more. No
jerkwater hotels about this! No Pittsburgh newspaper restaurants about
this! Ah, look at the biscuit! Look at the biscuit!” as a maid brought
in a creamy plateful. “And here’s steak—steak and brown gravy and
biscuit! Steak and brown gravy and biscuit!” He rubbed his hands in joy.
“I’ll bet you haven’t seen anything like this since you left home. Ah,
good old steak and gravy!” His interest in food was always intense.

“It’s been many a day since I’ve had such biscuit and gravy, E——,” I
observed.

“‘It’s been many a day since I’ve had such biscuit and gravy, E——,’”
mocked my brother.

“Get out, you!” chimed in my sister. “Just listen to him, the old
snooks! I can’t get him out of the kitchen, can I, George? He’s always
eating. ‘It’s been many a day——’ Ho! Ho!”

“I thought you were dieting?” I inquired.

“So I am, but you don’t expect me not to eat this morning, do you? I’m
doing this to welcome you.”

“Some welcome!” I scoffed.

Our chatter became more serious as the first glow of welcome wore off.
During it all I was never free of a sense of the hugeness and
strangeness of the city and the fact that at last I was here. And in
this immense and far-flung thing my sister had this minute nook. From
where I sat I could hear strange moanings and blowings which sounded
like foghorns.

“What is that noise?” I finally asked, for to me it was eerie.

“Boats—tugs and vessels in the harbor. There’s a fog on,” explained H——,
E——’s husband.

I listened to the variety of sounds, some far, some near, some mellow,
some hoarse. “How far away are they?”

“Anywhere from one to ten miles.”

I stopped and listened again. Suddenly the full majesty of the sea
sweeping about this island at this point caught me. The entire city was
surrounded by water. Its great buildings and streets were all washed
about by that same sea-green salty flood which I had seen coming over
from Jersey City, and beyond were the miles and miles of dank salt
meadows, traversed by railroads. Huge liners from abroad were even now
making their way here. At its shores were ranged in rows great vessels
from Europe and all other parts of the world, all floating quietly upon
the bosom of this great river. There were tugs and small boats and
sailing vessels, and beyond all these, eastward, the silence, the
majesty, the deadly earnestness of the sea.

“Do you ever think how wonderful it is to have the sea so close?” I
asked.

“No, I can’t say that I do,” replied my brother-in-law.

“Nor I,” said my sister. “You get used to all those things here, you
know.”

“It’s wonderful, my boy,” said my brother, as usual helpfully
interested. He invariably seemed to approve of all my moods and
approaches to sentiment, and, like a mother who admires and spoils a
child, was anxious to encourage and indulge me. “Great subject, the
sea.”

I could not help smiling, he was so naïf and simple and intellectually
innocent and sweet.

“It’s a great city,” I said suddenly, the full import of it all sweeping
over me. “I think I’d like to live here.”

“Didn’t I tell you! Didn’t I tell you!” exclaimed my brother gayly.
“They all fall for it! Now it’s the ocean vessels that get him. You take
my advice, my boy, and move down here. The quicker the better for you.”

I replied that I might, and then tried to forget the vessels and their
sirens, but could not. The sea! The sea! And this great city! Never
before was I so anxious to explore a city, and never before so much in
awe of one either. It seemed so huge and powerful and terrible. There
was something about it which made me seem useless and trivial. Whatever
one might have been elsewhere, what could one be here?


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER LXVII


MY sister’s husband having something to do with this narrative, I will
touch upon his history as well as that of my sister. In her youth E——
was one of the most attractive of the girls in our family. She never had
any intellectual or artistic interests of any kind; if she ever read a
book I never heard of it. But as for geniality, sympathy, industry,
fair-mindedness and an unchanging and self-sacrificing devotion to her
children, I have never known any one who could rival her. With no
adequate intellectual training, save such as is provided by the
impossible theories and teachings of the Catholic Church, she was but
thinly capacitated to make her way in the world.

At eighteen or nineteen she had run away and gone to Chicago, where she
had eventually met H——, who had apparently fallen violently in love with
her. He was fifteen years older than she and moderately well versed in
the affairs of this world. At the time she met him he was the rather
successful manager of a wholesale drug company, reasonably well-placed
socially, married and the father of two or three children, the latter
all but grown to maturity. They eloped, going direct to New York.

This was a great shock to my mother, who managed to conceal it from my
father although it was a three-days’ wonder in the journalistic or
scandal world of Chicago. Nothing more was heard of her for several
years, when a dangerous illness overtook my mother in Warsaw and E——
came hurrying back for a few days’ visit. This was followed by another
silence, which was ended by the last illness and death of my mother in
Chicago, and she again appeared, a distrait and hysteric soul. I never
knew any one to yield more completely to her emotions than she did on
this occasion; she was almost fantastic in her grief. During all this
time she had been living in New York, and she and her husband were
supposed to be well off. Later, talking to Paul in St. Louis, I gathered
that H——, while not so successful since he had gone East, was not a bad
sort and that he had managed to connect himself with politics in some
way, and that they were living comfortably in Fifteenth Street. But when
I arrived there I found that they were by no means comfortable. The
Tammany administration, under which a year or two before he had held an
inspectorship of some kind, had been ended by the investigations of the
Lexow Committee, and he was now without work of any kind. Also, instead
of having proved a faithful and loving husband, he had long since
wearied of his wife and strayed elsewhere. Now, having fallen from his
success, he was tractable. Until the arrival of my brother Paul, who for
reasons of sympathy had agreed to share the expenses here during the
summer season, he had induced E—— to rent rooms, but for this summer
this had been given up. With the aid of my brother and some occasional
work H—— still did they were fairly comfortable. My sister if not quite
happy was still the devoted slave of her children and a most
pathetically dependent housewife. Whatever fires or vanities of her
youth had compelled her to her meteoric career, she had now settled down
and was content to live for her children. Her youth was over, love gone.
And yet she managed to convey an atmosphere of cheer and hopefulness.

My brother Paul was in the best of spirits. He held a fair position as
an actor, being the star in a road comedy and planning to go out the
ensuing fall in a new one which he had written for himself and which
subsequently enjoyed many successful seasons on the road. In addition,
he was by way of becoming more and more popular nationally as a
song-writer. Also as I have said, he had connected himself as a third
partner in a song-publishing business which was to publish his own and
other songs, and this, despite its smallness, was showing unmistakable
signs of success.

The first thing he did this morning was to invite me to come and see
this place, and about noon we walked across Fifteenth Street and up
Sixth Avenue, then the heart of the shopping district, to Twentieth
Street and thence east to between Fifth Avenue and Broadway, where in a
one-time fashionable but now decayed dwelling, given over to small
wholesale ventures, his concern was housed on the third floor. This was
almost the center of a world of smart shops near several great hotels:
the Continental, Bartholdi, and the Fifth Avenue. Next door were Lord &
Taylor. Below this, on the next corner, at Nineteenth and Broadway, was
the Gorham Company, and below that the Ditson Company, a great music
house, Arnold, Constable & Company and others. There were excellent
restaurants and office buildings crowding out an older world of fashion.
I remember being impressed with the great number of severe brownstone
houses with their wide flights of stone steps, conservatories and
porte-cochères. Fifth Avenue and Twentieth Street were filled with
handsome victorias and coaches.

Going into my brother’s office I saw a sign on the door which read:
_Howley, Haviland & Company_, and underneath, _Wing & Sons, Pianos_.

“Are you the agent for a piano?” I inquired.

“Huh-uh. They let us have a practice piano in return for that sign.”

When I met his partners I was impressed with the probability of success
which they seemed to suggest and which came true. The senior member,
Howley, was a young, small, goggle-eyed hunchback with a mouthful of
protruding teeth, and hair as black as a crow, and piercing eyes. He had
long thin arms and legs which, because of his back, made him into a kind
of Spider of a man, and he went about spider-wise, laughing and talking,
yet always with a heavy “Scutch” burr.

“We’re joost aboot gettin’ un our feet here nu,” he said to me, his
queer twisted face screwed up into a grimace of satisfaction and pride,
“end we hevn’t ez yet s’mutch to show ye. But wuth a lettle time I’m
a-theenkin’ ye’ll be seem’ theengs a-lookin’ a leetle bether.”

I laughed. “Say,” I said to Paul when Howley had gone about some work,
“how could you fail with him around? He’s as smart as a whip, and
they’re all good luck anyhow.” I was referring to the superstition which
counts all hunchbacks as lucky to others.

“Yes,” said my brother. “I know they’re lucky, and he’s as straight and
honest as they make ’em. I’ll always get a square deal here,” and then
he began to tell me how his old publisher, by whom Howley had been
employed, had “trimmed” him, and how this youth had put him wise. Then
and there had begun this friendship which had resulted in this
partnership.

The space this firm occupied was merely one square room, twenty by
twenty, and in one corner of this was placed the free “tryout” piano. In
another, between two windows, two tables stood back to back, piled high
with correspondence. A longer table was along one side of a wall and was
filled with published music, which was being wrapped and shipped. On the
walls were some wooden racks or bins containing “stock,” the few songs
thus far published. Although only a year old, this firm already had
several songs which were beginning to attract attention, one of them
entitled _On the Sidewalks of New York_. By the following summer this
song was being sung and played all over the country and in England, an
international “hit.” This office, in this very busy center, cost them
only twenty dollars a month, and their “overhead expeenses,” as Howley
pronounced it, were “juist nexta nothin’.” I could see that my good
brother was in competent hands for once.

And the second partner, who arrived just as we were sitting down at a
small table in a restaurant nearby for lunch, was an equally interesting
youth whose personality seemed to spell success. At this time he was
still connected as “head of stock,” whatever that may mean, with that
large wholesale and retail music house the Ditson Company, at Broadway
and Eighteenth Street. Although a third partner in this new concern, he
had not yet resigned his connection with the other and was using it,
secretly of course, to aid him and his firm in disposing of some of
their wares. He was quite young, not more than twenty-seven, very quick
and alert in manner, very short of speech, avid and handsome, a most
attractive and clean-looking man. He shot out questions and replies as
one might bullets out of a gun. “Didy’seeDrake?” “What ‘d’esay?”
“AnynewsfromBaker?” “Thedevily’say!” “Y’ don’tmeanit!”

I was moved to study him with the greatest care. Out of many anywhere, I
told myself, I would have selected him as a pushing and promising and
very self-centered person, but by no means disagreeable. Speaking of him
later, as well as of Howley, my brother once said: “Y’see, Thee, New
York’s the only place you could do a thing like this. This is the only
place you could get fellows with their experience. Howley used to be
with my old publisher, Woodward, and he’s the one that put me wise to
the fact that Woodward was trimming me. And Haviland was a friend of
his, working for Ditson.”

From the first, I had the feeling that this firm of which my brother was
a part would certainly be successful. There was something about it, a
spirit of victory and health and joy in work and life, which convinced
me that these three would make a go of it. I could see them ending in
wealth, as they did before disasters of their own invention overtook
them. But that was still years away and after they had at least eaten of
the fruits of victory.

As a part of this my initiation into the wonders of the city Paul led me
into what he insisted was one of the wealthiest and most ornate of the
Roman Churches in New York, St. Francis Xavier in Sixteenth Street, from
which he was subsequently buried. Standing in this, he told me of some
Jesuit priest there, a friend of his, who was comfortably berthed and “a
good sport into the bargain, Thee, a bird.” However, having had my fill
of Catholicism and its ways, I was not so much impressed, either by his
friend or his character. But Sixth Avenue in this sunshine did impress
me. It was the crowded center of nearly all the great stores, at least
five, each a block in length, standing in one immense line on one side
of the street. The carriages! The well-dressed people! Paul pointed out
to me the windows of Altman’s on the west side of the street at
Eighteenth and said it was the most exclusive store in America, that
Marshall Field & Company of Chicago was as nothing, and I had the
feeling from merely looking at it that this was true; it was so
well-arranged and spacious. Its windows, in which selected materials
were gracefully draped and contrasted, bore out this impression. There
were many vehicles of the better sort constantly pausing at its doors to
put down most carefully dressed women and girls. I marveled at the size
and wealth of a city which could support so many great stores all in a
row.

Because of the heat my brother insisted upon calling a hansom cab to
take us to Fourteenth and Broadway, where we were to begin our northward
journey. Just south of Union Square at Thirteenth Street was the old
Star Theater of which he said: “There you have it. That used to be
Lester Wallack’s Theater twenty years ago—the great Lester Wallack.
There was an actor, my boy, a great actor! They talk about Mansfield and
Barrett and Irving and Willard and all these other people today. All
good, my boy, all good, but not in it with him, Theodore, not in it.
This man was a genius. And he packed ’em too. Many a time I’ve passed
this place when you couldn’t get by the door for the crowd.” And he
proceeded to relate that in the old days, when he first came to New
York, all the best part of the theatrical district was still about and
below Union Square—Niblo’s, the old London on the Bowery, and what not.

I listened. What had been had been. It might all have been very
wonderful but it was so no longer, all done and gone. I was new and
strange, and wished to see only what was new and wonderful now. The sun
was bright on Union Square now. This was a newer world in which we were
living, he and I, this day. The newest wave of the sea invariably
obliterates the one that has gone before. And that was only twenty years
ago and it has all changed again.

North of this was the newer Broadway—the Broadway of the current actor,
manager and the best theaters—and fresh, smart, gay, pruned of almost
every trace of poverty or care. Tiffany’s was at Fifteenth and Broadway,
its windows glittering with jewels; Brentano’s, the booksellers, were at
Sixteenth on the west side of Union Square; and Sarony, the
photographer, was between Fifteenth and Sixteenth, a great gold replica
of his signature indicating his shop. The Century Company, to which my
brother called my attention as an institution I might some day be
connected with, so great was his optimism and faith in me, stood on the
north side of Union Square at Seventeenth. At Nineteenth and Broadway
were the Gorham Company, and Arnold, Constable & Company. At Twentieth
was Lord & Taylor’s great store, adjoining the old building in which was
housed my brother’s firm. Also, at this street, stood the old
Continental Hotel, a popular and excellent restaurant occupying a large
portion of its lower floor which became a part of my daily life later.
At Twenty-first Street was then standing one of the three great stores
of Park & Tilford. At Twenty-third, on the east side of the street,
facing Madison Square, was another successful hotel, the Bartholdi, and
opposite it, on the west side, was the site of the Flatiron Building.

Across Madison Square, its delicate golden-brown tower soaring aloft and
alone, no huge buildings then as now to dwarf it, stood Madison Square
Garden, Diana, her arrow pointed to the wind, giving naked chase to a
mythic stag, her mythic dogs at her heels, high in the blue air above.
The west side of Broadway, between Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth, was
occupied by the Fifth Avenue Hotel, the home, as my brother was quick to
inform me, of Senator Platt, the Republican boss of the State, who with
Croker divided the political control of the State and who here held open
court, the famous “Amen Corner,” where his political henchmen were
allowed to ratify all his suggestions. It was somewhere within. Between
Twenty-fifth and Twenty-sixth on the same side of the street were two
more hotels, the Albemarle and the Hoffman House. Just north of this, at
Twenty-seventh and Broadway, on the east side of the street and running
through to Fifth Avenue, was Delmonico’s. Into this we now ventured, my
good brother hailing genially some acquaintance who happened to be in
charge of the floor at the moment. The waiter who served us greeted him
familiarly. I stared in awe at its pretentious and ornate furniture, its
noble waiters and the something about it which seemed to speak of wealth
and power. How easily five cents crooks the knee to five million!

A block or two north of this was the old Fifth Avenue Theater, then a
theater of the first class but later devoted to vaudeville. At
Twenty-ninth was the Gilsey House, one of the earliest homes of this my
Rialto-loving brother. At Thirtieth and Broadway, on the east side,
stood Palmer’s Theater, famous for its musical and beauty shows. At
Thirty-first and Broadway, on the west side of the street, stood
Augustus Daly’s famous playhouse, its façade suggestive of older homes
remodeled to this new use. And already it was coming to be _passé_.
Weber & Fields’ had not even appeared. And in my short span it appeared
and disappeared and became a memory! Between Twenty-eighth and
Thirty-fourth were several more important hotels: The Grand, The
Imperial; and between Thirty-third and Thirty-fourth streets, in Sixth
Avenue, was the old Manhattan Theater, at that time the home of many
successes, but also, like Daly’s, drawing to the end of a successful
career.

In Thirty-fourth, west of Broadway (later a part of the Macy store
site), was Koster & Bial’s Music Hall, managed by a man who subsequently
was to become widely known but who was then only beginning to rise,
Oscar Hammerstein. And around the corner, in Broadway at Thirty-fifth,
was a very successful theater, the Herald Square, facing the unique and
beautiful _Herald_ building. Beyond that in Thirty-fifth, not many feet
east of Sixth Avenue, was the Garrick, or the Lyceum as it was then
known, managed by Daniel Frohman. Above these, at Thirty-sixth, on the
west side, was the Marlborough, at which later, in his heyday, my
brother chose to live. At Thirty-eighth, on the southeast corner, stood
the popular and exclusive Normandie, one of the newer hotels, and at the
northeast corner of this same intersection, the new and imposing
Knickerbocker Theater. At Thirty-ninth was the far-famed Casino, with
its choruses of girls, the Mecca of all night-loving Johnnies and
rowdies; and between Thirty-ninth and Fortieth, on the west side, the
world-famed Metropolitan Opera House, still unchanged save for a
restaurant in its northern corner. At Fortieth over the way stood the
Empire Theater, with its stock company, which included the Drews,
Favershams and what not; and in this same block was the famous Browne’s
Chop House, a resort for Thespians and night-lovers. At Forty-second and
Broadway, the end of all Rialto-dom for my brother, and from which he
turned sadly and said: “Well, here’s the end,” stood that Mecca of
Meccas, the new Hotel Metropole, with its restaurant opening on three
streets, its leathern seats backed to its walls, its high open windows,
an air of super-wisdom as to all matters pertaining to sport and the
theater pervading it. This indeed was the extreme northern limit of the
white-light district, and here we paused for a drink and to see and be
seen.

How well I remember it all—the sense of ease and well-being that was
over this place, and over all Broadway; the loud clothes, the bright
straw hats, the canes, the diamonds, the hot socks, the air of security
and well-being, assumed by those who had won an all-too-brief hour in
that pretty, petty world of make-believe and pleasure and fame. And here
my good brother was at his best. It was “Paul” here and “Paul” there.
Already known for several songs of great fame, as well as for his stage
work and genial personality, he was welcomed everywhere.

And then, ambling down the street in the comforting shade of its west
wall, what amazing personalities, male and female, and so very many of
them, pausing to take him by the hand, slap him on the back, pluck
familiarly at his coat lapel and pour into his ear or his capacious
bosom magnificent tales of successes, of great shows, of fights and
deaths and love affairs and tricks and scandals. And all the time my
good brother smiled, laughed, sympathized. There were moments with
prizefighters, with long-haired Thespians down on their luck and looking
for a dime or a dollar, and bright petty upstarts of the vaudeville
world. Retired miners and ranchmen out of the West, here to live and
recount their tales of hardships endured, battles won, or of marvelous
winnings at cards, trickeries in racing, prizefighting and what not, now
ambled by or stopped and exchanged news or stories. There was talk of
what “dogs” or “swine” some people were, what liars, scoundrels,
ingrates; as well as the magnificent, magnanimous, “God’s own salt” that
others were. The oaths! The stories of women! My brother seemed to know
them all. I was amazed. What a genial, happy, well-thought-of successful
man!


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER LXVIII


ALL this while of course there had been much talk as to the character of
those we met, the wealth and fashion that purchased at Tiffany’s or at
Brentano’s, those who loafed at the Fifth Avenue, the Hoffman House, the
Gilsey, the Normandie. My brother had friends in many of these hotels
and bars. A friend of his was the editor of the _Standard_, Roland Burke
Hennessy, and he would take me up and introduce me. Another was the
political or sporting man of the _Sun_ or _World_ or _Herald_. Here came
one who was the manager of the Casino or the Gilsey! One was a writer, a
playwright, a song-writer or a poet! A man of facile friendships, my
brother! As we passed Twenty-third Street he made it plain that here was
a street which had recently begun to replace the older and more colossal
Sixth Avenue, some of the newer and much smarter stores—Best’s, Le
Boutillier’s, McCreery’s, Stern Brothers’—having built here.

“This is really the smart street now, Thee, this and a part of Fifth
Avenue about Twenty-third. The really exclusive stores are coming in
here. If you ever work in New York, as you will, you’ll want to know
about these things. You’ll see more smart women in here than in any
other shopping street,” and he called my attention to the lines of
lacquered and be-furred and beplushed carriages, the harness of the
horses aglitter with nickel and gilt.

Passing Daly’s he said: “Now here, my boy, is a manager. He makes
actors, he don’t hire them. He takes ’em and trains ’em. All these young
fellows and girls who are making a stir,” and he named a dozen, among
whom I noted such names as those of Maude Adams, Willie Collier, Drew
and Faversham, “worked for him. And he don’t allow any nonsense. There’s
none of that upstage stuff with him, you bet. When you work for him
you’re just an ordinary employee and you do what he tells you, not the
way you think you ought to do. I’ve watched him rehearse, and I know,
and all these fellows tell the same story about him. But he’s a
gentleman, my boy, and a manager. Everybody knows that when he finishes
with a man or a woman they can act.”

At Thirty-third Street he waved his hand in the direction of the
Waldorf, which was then but the half of its later size.

“Down there’s the Waldorf. That’s the place. That’s the last word for
the rich. That’s where they give the biggest balls and dinners, there
and at Delmonico’s and the Netherland.” And after a pause he continued:
“Some time you ought to write about these things, Thee. They’re the
limit for extravagance and show. The people out West don’t know yet
what’s going on, but the rich are getting control. They’ll own the
country pretty soon. A writer like you could make ’em see that. You
ought to show up some of these things so they’d know.”

Youthful, inexperienced, unlettered, the whole scroll of this earthly
wallow a mere guess, I accepted that as an important challenge. Maybe it
ought to be shown up.... As though picturing or indicating life has ever
yet changed it! But he, the genial and hopeful, always fancied that it
might be so—and I with him.

When he left me this day at three or four, his interest ended because
the wonders of Broadway had been exhausted, I found myself with all the
great strange city still to be explored. Making inquiry as to directions
and distances, I soon found myself in Fifth Avenue at Forty-second
Street. Here, represented by mansions at least, was that agglomeration
of wealth which, as I then imagined, solved all earthly ills. Beauty was
here, of course, and ease and dignity and security, that most wonderful
and elusive thing in life. I saw, I admired, and I resented, being
myself poor and seeking.

Fifth Avenue then lacked a few of the buildings which since have added
somewhat to its impressiveness—the Public Library, the Metropolitan
Museum façade at Eighty-second Street, as well as most of the great
houses which now face Central Park north of Fifty-ninth Street. But in
their place was something that has since been lost and never will be
again: a line of quiet and unpretentious brownstone residences which,
crowded together on spaces of land no wider than twenty-five feet, still
had about them an air of exclusiveness which caused one to hesitate and
take note. Between Forty-second and Fifty-ninth Street there was
scarcely a suggestion of that coming invasion of trade which
subsequently, in a period of less than twenty years, changed its
character completely. Instead there were clubs, residences, huge quiet
and graceful hotels such as the old Plaza and the Windsor, long since
destroyed, and the very graceful Cathedral of St. Patrick. All the cross
streets in this area were lined uniformly with brownstone or red brick
houses of the same height and general appearance, a high flight of steps
leading to the front door, a side gate and door for servants under the
steps. Nearly all of these houses were closely boarded up for the
summer. There was scarcely a trace of life anywhere save here or there
where a servant lounged idly at a side gate or on the front steps
talking to a policeman or a cabman.

At Fiftieth Street the great church on its platform was as empty as a
drum. At Fifty-ninth, where stood the Savoy, the Plaza, and the
Netherland, as well as the great home of Cornelius Vanderbilt, it was
all bare as a desert. Lonely handsome cabs plupped dismally to and fro,
and the father or mother of the present Fifth Avenue bus, an overgrown
closed carriage, rolled lonesomely between Washington Square and One
Hundred and Tenth Street. Central Park had most of the lovely walks and
lakes which grace it today, but no distant skyline. Central Park West as
such had not even appeared. That huge wall that breaks the western sky
now was wanting. Along this dismal thoroughfare there trundled a dismal
yellow horse-car trailing up a cobble-paved street bare of anything save
a hotel or two and some squatter shanties on rocks, with their attendant
goats.

But for all that, keeping on as far north as the Museum, I was steadily
more and more impressed. It was not beautiful, but perhaps, as I
thought, it did not need to be. The congestion of the great city and the
power of a number of great names were sufficient to excuse it. And ever
and anon would come a something—the Gould home at Sixty-first, the
Havemeyer and Astor residences at Sixty-sixth and Sixty-eighth, the
Lenox Library at Seventy-second—which redeemed it. Even the old red
brick and white stone Museum, now but the central core of the much
larger building, with its attendant obelisk, had charm and dignity. So
far I wandered, then took the bus and returned to my sister’s apartment
in Fifteenth Street.

                  *       *       *       *       *

If I have presented all this mildly it was by no means a mild experience
for me. Sensitive to the brevity of life and what one may do in a given
span, vastly interested in the city itself, I was swiftly being
hypnotized by a charm more elusive than real, more of the mind than the
eye perhaps, which seized upon and held me so tensely nevertheless that
soon I was quite unable to judge sanely of all this and saw its
commonplace and even mean face in a most roseate light. The beauty, the
hope, the possibilities that were here! It was not a handsome city. As I
look back on it now, there was much that was gross and soggy and even
repulsive about it. It had too many hard and treeless avenues and cross
streets, bare of anything save stone walls and stone or cobble pavements
and wretched iron lamp-posts. There were regions that were painfully
crowded with poverty, dirt, despair. The buildings were too uniformly
low, compact, squeezed. Outside the exclusive residence and commercial
areas there was no sense of length or space.

But having seen Broadway and this barren section of Fifth Avenue, I
could not think of it in a hostile way, the magnetism of large bodies
over small ones holding me. Its barrenness did not now appall me, nor
its lack of beauty irritate. There was something else here, a quality of
life and zest and security and ease for some, cheek by jowl with poverty
and longing and sacrifice, which gives to life everywhere its keenest
most pathetic edge. Here was none of that eager clattering snap so
characteristic of many of our Western cities, which, while it arrests at
first, eventually palls. No city that I had ever seen had exactly what
this had. As a boy, of course, I had invested Chicago with immense color
and force, and it was there, ignorant, American, semi-conscious,
seeking, inspiring. But New York was entirely different. It had the
feeling of gross and blissful and parading self-indulgence. It was as if
self-indulgence whispered to you that here was its true home; as if, for
the most part, it was here secure. Life here was harder perhaps, for
some more aware, more cynical and ruthless and brazen and shameless, and
yet more alluring for these very reasons. Wherever one turned one felt a
consciousness of ease and gluttony, indifference to ideals, however low
or high, and coupled with a sense of power that had found itself and was
not easily to be dislodged, of virtue that has little idealism and is
willing to yield for a price. Here, as one could feel, were huge dreams
and lusts and vanities being gratified hourly. I wanted to know the
worst and the best of it.

During the few days that I was permitted to remain here, I certainly had
an excellent sip. My brother, while associated with the other two as a
partner, was so small a factor so far as his firm’s internal economy was
concerned that he was not needed as more than a hand-shaker on Broadway,
one who went about among vaudeville and stage singers and actors and
song-composers and advertised by his agreeable personality the existence
of his firm and its value to them. And it was that quality of geniality
in him which so speedily caused his firm to grow and prosper. Indeed he
was its very breath and life. I always think of him as idling along
Broadway in the summer time, seeing men and women who could sing songs
and writers who could write them, and inducing them by the compelling
charm of his personality, to resort to his firm. He had a way with
people, affectionate, reassuring, intimate. He was a magnet which drew
the young and the old, the sophisticated and the unsophisticated, to his
house Gradually, and because of him and his fame, it prospered mightily,
and yet I doubt if ever his partners understood how much he meant to
them. His house was young and unimportant, yet within a year or two it
had forged its way to the front, and this was due to him and none other.
The rest was merely fair commercial management of what he provided in
great abundance.

While he waited for his regular theatrical season to resume, he was most
excellently prepared to entertain one who might be interested to see
Broadway. This night, after dinner at my sister’s, he said, “Come on,
sport,” and together, after promising faithfully to be back by midnight,
we ambled forth, strolling across Fifteenth Street to Sixth Avenue and
then taking a car to Thirty-third Street, the real center of all things
theatrical at the time. Here, at Broadway and Thirty-fifth, opposite the
_Herald_ building and the Herald Square Theater, stood the Hotel Aulic,
a popular rendezvous for actors and singers, with whom my brother was
most concerned. And here they were in great number, the sidewalks on two
sides of the building alive with them, a world of glittering, spinning
flies. I recall the agreeable summer evening air, the bright comforting
lights, the open doors and windows, the showy clothes, the laughter, the
jesting, the expectorating, the back-slapping geniality. It was
wonderful, the spirit and the sense of happiness and ease. Men do at
times attain to happiness, paradise even, in this shabby, noisome,
worthless, evanescent, make-believe world. I have seen it with mine own
eyes.

And here, as in that more pretentious institution at Forty-second
Street, the Metropole, my brother was at ease. His was by no means the
trade way of a drummer but rather that of one who, like these others,
was merely up and down the street seeing what he might. He drank, told
idle tales, jested unwearyingly. But all the while, as he told me later,
he was really looking for certain individuals who could sing or play and
whom in this roundabout and casual way he might interest in the
particular song or instrumental composition he was then furthering. “And
you never can tell,” he said. “You might run into some fellow who would
be just the one to write a song or sing one for you.”


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER LXIX


THE next day I was left to myself, and visited City Hall, Brooklyn
Bridge, Wall Street and the financial and commercial sections.

I, having no skill for making money and intensely hungry for the things
that money would buy, stared at Wall Street, a kind of cloudy Olympus in
which foregathered all the gods of finance, with the eyes of one who
hopes to extract something by mere observation. Physically it was not
then, as it is today, the center of a sky-crowded world. There were few
if any high buildings below City Hall, few higher than ten stories. Wall
Street was curved, low-fronted, like Oxford Street in London. It began,
as some one had already pointed out, at a graveyard and ended at a
river. The house of J. P. Morgan was just then being assailed for its
connection with a government gold bond issue. The offices of Russell
Sage and George Gould (the son), as well as those of the Standard Oil
Company below Wall in Broadway, and those of a whole company of now
forgotten magnates, could have been pointed out by any messenger boy,
postman or policeman. What impressed me was that the street was vibrant
with something which, though far from pleasing, craft, greed, cunning,
niggardliness, ruthlessness, a smart swaggering ease on the part of
some, and hopeless, bedraggled or beaten aspect on the part of others,
held my interest as might a tiger or a snake. I had never seen such a
world. It was so busy and paper-bestrewn, messenger and broker
bestridden, as to make one who had nothing to do there feel dull and
commonplace. One thought only of millions made in stocks over night, of
yachts, orgies, travels, fames and what not else. Since that time Wall
Street has become much tamer, less significant, but then one had a
feeling that if only one had a tip or a little skill one might become
rich; or that, on the other hand, one might be torn to bits and that
here was no mercy.

I arrived a little before noon, and the ways were alive with messenger
boys and young clerks and assistants. On the ground was a mess of
papers, torn telegrams and letters. Near Broad and Wall streets the air
was filled with a hum of voices and typewriter clicks issuing from open
windows. Just then, as with the theatrical business later, and still
later with the motion picture industry, it had come to be important to
be in the street, however thin one’s connection. To say “I am in Wall
Street” suggested a world of prospects and possibilities. The fact that
at this time, and for twenty years after, the news columns were all but
closed to suicides and failures in Wall Street, so common were they,
illustrates how vagrant and unfounded were the dreams of many.

But the end of Wall Street as the seat of American money domination
might even then have been foretold. The cities of the nation were
growing. New and by degrees more or less independent centers of finance
were being developed. In the course of fifteen years it had become the
boast of some cities that they could do without New York in the matter
of loans, and it was true. They could; and today many enterprises go
west, not east, for their cash. In the main, Wall Street has degenerated
into a second-rate gamblers’ paradise. What significant Wall Street
figures are there today?

On one of my morning walks in New York I had wandered up Broadway to the
_Herald_ Building and looked into its windows, where were visible a
number of great presses in full operation, much larger than any I had
seen in the West, and my brother had recalled to me the fact that James
Gordon Bennett, owner and editor of the _Herald_, had once commissioned
Henry M. Stanley, at that time a reporter on the paper, to go to Africa
to find Livingstone. And my good brother, who romanticized all things,
my supposed abilities and possibilities included, was inclined to think
that if I came to New York some such great thing might happen to me.

On another day I went to Printing House Square, where I stared at the
_Sun_ and _World_ and _Times_ and _Tribune_ buildings, all facing City
Hall Park, sighing for the opportunities that they represented. But I
did not act. Something about them overawed me, especially the _World_,
the editor of which had begun his career in St. Louis years before.
Compared with the Western papers with which I had been connected, all
New York papers seemed huge, the tasks they represented editorially and
reportorially much more difficult. True, a brother of a famous
playwright with whom I had worked in St. Louis had come East and
connected himself with the _World_, and I might have called upon him and
spied out the land. He had fortified himself with a most favorable
record in the West, as had I, only I did not look upon mine as so
favorable somehow. Again, a city editor once of St. Louis was now here,
city editor of one of the city’s great papers, the _Recorder_, and
another man, a Sunday editor of Pittsburgh, had become the Sunday editor
of the _Press_ here. But these appeared to me to be exceptional cases. I
reconnoitered these large and in the main rather dull institutions with
the eye of one who seeks to take a fortress. The editorial pages of all
of these papers, as I had noticed in the West, bristled with cynical and
condescending remarks about that region, and their voices representing
great circulation and wealth gave them amazing weight in my eyes.
Although I knew what I knew about the subservience of newspapers to
financial interests, their rat-like fear of religionists and moralists,
their shameful betrayal of the ordinary man at every point at which he
could possibly be betrayed yet still having the power, by weight of lies
and pretense and make-believe, to stir him up to his own detriment and
destruction, I was frightened by this very power, which in subsequent
years I have come to look upon as the most deadly anD forceful of all in
nature: the power to masquerade and by.

There was about these papers an air of assurance and righteousness and
authority and superiority which overawed and frightened me. To work on
the _Sun_, the _Herald_, the _World_! How many cubs, from how many
angles of our national life, were constantly and hopefully eyeing them
from the very same sidewalks or benches in City Hall Park, as the
ultimate solution of all their literary, commercial, social, political
problems and ambitions. The thousands of pipe-smoking collegians who
have essayed the _Sun_ alone, the scullion Danas, embryo Greeleys and
Bennetts!

I decided that it would be best for me to return to Pittsburgh and save
a little money before I took one of these frowning editorial offices by
storm, and I did return, but in what a reduced mood! Pittsburgh, after
New York and all I had seen there! And in this darkly brooding and
indifferent spirit I now resumed my work. A sum of money sufficient to
sustain me for a period in New York was all that I wished now.

And in the course of the next four months I did save two hundred and
forty dollars, enduring deprivations which I marvel at even
now—breakfast consisting of a cruller and a cup of coffee; dinners that
cost no more than a quarter, sometimes no more than fifteen cents. In
the meantime I worked as before only to greater advantage, because I was
now more sure of myself. My study of Balzac and these recent adventures
in the great city had so fired my ambition that nothing could have kept
me in Pittsburgh. I lived on so little that I think I must have done
myself some physical harm which told against me later in the struggle
for existence in New York.

At this time I had the fortune to discover Huxley and Tyndall and
Herbert Spencer, whose introductory volume to his _Synthetic Philosophy_
(_First Principles_) quite blew me, intellectually, to bits. Hitherto,
until I had read Huxley, I had some lingering filaments of Catholicism
trailing about me, faith in the existence of Christ, the soundness of
his moral and sociologic deductions, the brotherhood of man. But on
reading _Science and Hebrew Tradition_ and _Science and Christian
Tradition_, and finding both the Old and New Testaments to be not
compendiums of revealed truth but mere records of religious experiences,
and very erroneous ones at that, and then taking up _First Principles_
and discovering that all I deemed substantial—man’s place in nature, his
importance in the universe, this too, too solid earth, man’s very
identity save as an infinitesimal speck of energy or a “suspended
equation” drawn or blown here and there by larger forces in which he
moved quite unconsciously as an atom—all questioned and dissolved into
other and less understandable things, I was completely thrown down in my
conceptions or non-conceptions of life.

Up to this time there had been in me a blazing and unchecked desire to
get on and the feeling that in doing so we did get somewhere; now in its
place was the definite conviction that spiritually one got nowhere, that
there was no hereafter, that one lived and had his being because one had
to, and that it was of no importance. Of one’s ideals, struggles,
deprivations, sorrows and joys, it could only be said that they were
chemic compulsions, something which for some inexplicable but
unimportant reason responded to and resulted from the hope of pleasure
and the fear of pain. Man was a mechanism, undevised and uncreated, and
a badly and carelessly driven one at that.

I fear that I cannot make you feel how these things came upon me in the
course of a few weeks’ reading and left me numb, my gravest fears as to
the unsolvable disorder and brutality of life eternally verified. I felt
as low and hopeless at times as a beggar of the streets. There was of
course this other matter of necessity, internal chemical compulsion, to
which I had to respond whether I would or no. I was daily facing a round
of duties which now more than ever verified all that I had suspected and
that these books proved. With a gloomy eye I began to watch how the
chemical—and their children, the mechanical—forces operated through man
and outside him, and this under my very eyes. Suicides seemed sadder
since there was no care for them; failures the same. One of those
periodic scandals breaking out in connection with the care of prisoners
in some local or state jail, I saw how self-interest, the hope of
pleasure or the fear of pain caused jailers or wardens or a sheriff to
graft on prisoners, feed them rotten meat, torture them into silence and
submission, and then, politics interfering (the hope of pleasure again
and the fear of pain on the part of some), the whole thing hushed up, no
least measure of the sickening truth breaking out in the subservient
papers. Life could or would do nothing for those whom it so shamefully
abused.

Again, there was a poor section, one street in the East Pittsburgh
district, shut off by a railroad at one end (the latter erecting a high
fence to protect itself from trespass) and by an arrogant property owner
at the other end; those within were actually left without means of
ingress and egress. Yet instead of denouncing either or both, the
railroads being so powerful and the citizen prosperous and within his
“rights,” I was told to write a humorous article but not to “hurt
anybody’s feelings.” Also before my eyes were always those regions of
indescribable poverty and indescribable wealth previously mentioned,
which were always carefully kept separate by the local papers, all the
favors and compliments and commercial and social aids going to those who
had, all the sniffs and indifferences and slights going to those who had
not; and when I read Spencer I could only sigh. All I could think of was
that since nature would not or could not do anything for man, he must,
if he could, do something for himself; and of this I saw no prospect, he
being a product of these selfsame accidental, indifferent and bitterly
cruel forces.

And so I went on from day to day, reading, thinking, doing fairly
acceptable work, but always withdrawing more and more into myself. As I
saw it then, the world could not understand me, nor I it, nor men each
other very well. Then a little later I turned and said that since the
whole thing was hopeless I might as well forget it and join the narrow,
heartless, indifferent scramble, but I could not do that either, lacking
the temperament and the skill. All I could do was think, and since no
paper such as I knew was interested in any of the things about which I
was thinking, I was hopeless indeed. Finally, in late November, having
two hundred and forty dollars saved, I decided to leave this dismal
scene and seek the charm of the great city beyond, hoping that there I
might succeed at something, be eased and rested by some important work
of some kind.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER LXX


MY departure was accelerated by a conversation I had one day with the
political reporter of whom I have spoken but whose name I have
forgotten. By now I had come to be on agreeable social terms with all
the men on our staff, and at midnight it was my custom to drift around
to the Press Club, where might be found a goodly company of men who
worked on the different papers. I found this political man here one
night. He said: “I can’t understand why you stay here. Now I wouldn’t
say that to any one else in the game for fear he’d think I was plotting
to get him out of his job, but with you it’s different. There’s no great
chance here, and you have too much ability to waste your time on this
town. They won’t let you do anything. The steel people have this town
sewed up tight. The papers are muzzled. All you can do is to write what
the people at the top want you to write, and that’s very little. With
your talent you could go down to New York and make a place for yourself.
I’ve been there myself, but had to come back on account of my family.
The conditions were too uncertain for me, and I have to have a regular
income. But with you it’s different. You’re young, and apparently you
haven’t any one dependent on you. If you do strike it down there you’ll
make a lot of money, and what’s more you might make a name for yourself.
Don’t you think it’s foolish for you to stay here? Don’t think it’s
anything to me whether you go or stay. I haven’t any ax to grind, but I
really wonder why you stay.”

I explained that I had been drifting, that I was really on my way to New
York but taking my time about it. Only a few days before I had been
reading of a certain Indo-English newspaper man, fresh out of India with
his books and short stories, who was making a great stir. His name was
Rudyard Kipling, and the enthusiasm with which he was being received
made me not jealous but wishful for a career for myself. The tributes to
his brilliance were so unanimous, and he was a mere youth as yet, not
more than twenty-seven or -eight. He was coming to America, or was even
then on his way, and the wonder of such a success filled my mind. I
decided then and there that I would go, must go, and accordingly gave
notice of my intention. My city editor merely looked at me as much as to
say, “Well, I thought so,” then said: “Well, I think you’ll do better
there myself, but I’m not glad to have you go. You can refer to us any
time you want to.”

On Saturday I drew my pay at noon and by four o’clock had once more
boarded the express which deposited me in New York the following morning
at seven. My brother had long since left New York and would not be back
until the following Spring. I had exchanged a word or two with my sister
and found that she was not prospering. Since Paul had left she had been
forced to resort to letting rooms, H—— not having found anything to do.
I wired her that I was coming, and walked in on her the next morning.

My sister, on seeing me again, was delighted. I did not know then, and
perhaps if I had I should not have been so pleased, that I was looked
upon by her as the possible way out of a very difficult and trying
crisis which she and her two children were then facing. For H——, from
being a one-time fairly resourceful and successful and aggressive man,
had slipped into a most disconcerting attitude of weakness and all but
indifference before the onslaughts of the great city.

My brother Paul, being away, saw no reason why he should be called upon
to help them, since H—— was as physically able as himself. Aside from
renting their rooms there was apparently no other source of income here,
at least none which H—— troubled to provide. He appeared to be done for,
played out. Like so many who have fought a fair battle and then lost, he
had wearied of the game and was drifting. And my sister, like so many of
the children of ordinary families the world over, had received no
practical education or training and knew nothing other than housework,
that profitless trade. In consequence, within a very short time after my
arrival, I found myself faced by one of two alternatives: that of
retiring and leaving her to shift as best she might (a step which, in
view of what followed, would have been wiser but which my unreasoning
sympathy would not permit me to do), or of assisting her with what means
I had. But this would be merely postponing the day of reckoning for all
of them and bringing a great deal of trouble upon myself. For, finding
me willing to pay for my room and board here, and in addition to advance
certain sums which had nothing to do with my obligations, H—— felt that
he could now drift a little while longer and so did, accepting through
his wife such doles as I was willing to make. My sister, fumbling,
impractical soul, flowing like water into any crevice of opportunity,
accepted this sacrifice on my part.

But despite these facts, which developed very slowly, I was very much
alive to the possibilities which the city then held for me. At last I
was here. I told myself I had a comfortable place to stay and would
remain, and from this vantage point I could now sally forth and
reconnoiter the city at my leisure. And as in all previous instances, I
devoted a day or two to rambling about, surveying the world which I was
seeking to manipulate to my advantage, and then on the second or third
afternoon began to investigate those newspaper offices with which I was
most anxious to connect.

I can never forget the shock I received when on entering first the
_World_, then the _Sun_, and later the _Herald_, I discovered that one
could not so much as get in to see the city editor, that worthy being
guarded by lobby or anteroom, in which were posted as lookouts and
buffers or men-at-arms as cynical and contemptuous a company of youths
and hall boys as it has ever been my lot to meet. They were not only
self-sufficient, but supercilious, scoffing and ribald. Whenever I
entered one of these offices there were two or three on guard, sometimes
four or five in the _World_ office, wrestling for the possession of an
ink-well or a pencil or an apple, or slapping each other on the back.
But let a visitor arrive with an inquiry of some kind, and these young
banditti would cease their personal brawling long enough at least to
place themselves as a barricade between the newcomer and the door to the
editorial sanctum, whereupon would ensue the following routine formula,
each and every one of them chewing gum or eating an apple.

“Whoja wanta see?”

“The city editor.”

“Wha’ja wanta see him about?”

“A job.”

“No vacancies. No; no vacancies today. He says to say no vacancies
today, see? You can’t go in there. He says no vacancies.”

“But can’t I even see him?”

“No; he don’t wanta see anybody. No vacancies.”

“Well, how about taking my name in to him?”

“Not if you’re lookin’ for a job. He says no vacancies.”

The tone and the manner were most disconcerting. To me, new to the city
and rather overawed by the size of the buildings as well as the
reputation of the editors and the publications themselves, this was all
but final. For a little while after each rebuff I did not quite see how
I was to overcome this difficulty. Plainly they were overrun with
applicants, and in so great a city why would they not be? But what was I
to do? One must get in or write or call up on the telephone, but would
any city editor worthy the name discuss a man’s fitness or attempt to
judge him by a telephone conversation or a letter?

Rather dourly and speculatively, therefore, after I had visited four or
five of these offices with exactly the same result in each instance, I
went finally to City Hall Park, which fronted the majority of them—the
_Sun_, the _Tribune_, the _Times_, the _World_, the _Press_—and stared
at their great buildings. About me was swirling the throng which has
always made that region so interesting, the vast mass that bubbles
upward from the financial district and the regions south of it and
crosses the plaza to Brooklyn Bridge and the elevated roads (the subways
had not come yet). About me on the benches of the park was, even in this
gray, chill December weather, that large company of bums, loafers,
tramps, idlers, the flotsam and jetsam of the great city’s whirl and
strife to be seen there today. I presume I looked at them and then
considered myself and these great offices, and it was then that the idea
of _Hurstwood_ was born. The city seemed so huge and cruel. I recalled
gay Broadway of the preceding summer, and the baking, isolated,
exclusive atmosphere of Fifth Avenue, all boarded up. And now I was here
and it was winter, with this great newspaper world to be conquered, and
I did not see how it was to be done. At four in the afternoon I
dubiously turned my steps northward along the great, bustling, solidly
commercial Broadway to Fifteenth Street, walking all the way and staring
into the shops. Those who recall _Sister Carrie’s_ wanderings may find a
taste of it here. In Union Square, before Tiffany’s, I stared at an
immense Christmas throng. Then in the darkness I wandered across to my
sister’s apartment, and in the warmth and light there set me down
thinking what to do. My sister noticed my mood and after a little while
said:

“You’re worrying, aren’t you?”

“Oh no, I’m not,” I said rather pretentiously.

“Oh yes, you are too. You’re wondering how you’re going to get along. I
know how you are. We’re all that way. But you mustn’t worry. Paul says
you can write wonderfully. You’ve only been here a day or two. You must
wait until you’ve tried a little while and then see. You’re sure to get
along. New York isn’t so bad, only you have to get started.”

I decided that this was true enough and proposed to give myself time to
think.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER LXXI


BUT the next day, and the next, and the next brought me no solution to
the problem. The weather had turned cold and for a time there was a
slushy snow on the ground, which made the matter of job-hunting all the
worse. Those fierce youths in the anterooms were no more kindly on the
second and fifth days than they had been on the first. But by now, in
addition to becoming decidedly dour, I was becoming a little angry. It
seemed to me to be the height of discourtesy, not to say rank brutality,
for newspapers, and especially those which boasted a social and
humanitarian leadership of their fellows in American life, to place such
unsophisticated and blatant and ill-trained upstarts between themselves
and the general public, men and women of all shades and degrees of
intelligence who might have to come in contact with them. H. L. Mencken
has written: “The average American newspaper, especially the so-called
better sort, has the intelligence of a Baptist evangelist, the courage
of a rat, the fairness of a prohibitionist boob-bumper, the information
of a high-school janitor, the taste of a designer of celluloid
valentines, and the honor of a police-station lawyer.” Judging by some
of my experiences and observations, I would be willing to subscribe to
this. The unwarranted and unnecessary airs! The grand assumption of
wisdom! The heartless and brutal nature of their internal economies,
their pandering to the cheapest of all public instincts and tendencies
in search of circulation!

After several days I made up my mind to see the city editor of these
papers, regardless of hall boys. And so, going one day at one o’clock to
the _World_, I started to walk right in, but, being intercepted as
usual, lost my courage and retreated. However, as I have since thought,
perhaps this was fortunate, for going downstairs I meditated most
grievously as to my failure, my lack of skill and courage in carrying
out my intention. So thoroughly did I castigate myself that I recovered
my nerve and returned. I reëntered the small office, and finding two of
the youths still on hand and waiting to intercept me, brushed them both
aside as one might flies, opened the much-guarded door and walked in.

To my satisfaction, while they followed me and by threats and force
attempted to persuade me to retreat, I gazed upon one of the most
interesting city reportorial and editorial rooms that I have ever
beheld. It was forty or fifty feet wide by a hundred or more deep, and
lighted, even by day in this gray weather, by a blaze of lights. The
entire space from front to back was filled with desks. A varied company
of newspaper men, most of them in shirt-sleeves, were hard at work. In
the forward part of the room, near the door by which I had entered, and
upon a platform, were several desks, at which three or four men were
seated—the throne, as I quickly learned, of the city editor and his
assistants. Two of these, as I could see, were engaged in reading and
marking papers. A third, who looked as though he might be the city
editor, was consulting with several men at his desk. Copy boys were
ambling to and fro. From somewhere came the constant click-click-click
of telegraph instruments and the howl of “Coppee!” I think I should have
been forced to retire had it not been for the fact that as I was
standing there, threatened and pleaded with by my two adversaries, a
young man (since distinguished in the journalistic world, Arthur
Brisbane) who was passing through the room looked at me curiously and
inquired courteously:

“What is it you want?”

“I want,” I said, half-angered by the spectacle I was making and that
was being made of me, “a job.”

“Where do you come from?”

“The West.”

“Wait a moment,” he said, and the youths, seeing that I had attracted
his attention, immediately withdrew. He went toward the man at the desk
whom I had singled out as the city editor, and turned and pointed to me.
“This young man wants a job. I wish you would give him one.”

The man nodded, and my remarkable interrogator, turning to me, said,
“Just wait here,” and disappeared.

I did not know quite what to think, so astonished was I, but with each
succeeding moment my spirits rose, and by the time the city editor chose
to motion me to him I was in a very exalted state indeed. So much for
courage, I told myself. Surely I was fortunate, for had I not been
dreaming for months—years—of coming to New York and after great
deprivation and difficulty perhaps securing a position? And now of a
sudden here I was thus swiftly vaulted into the very position which of
all others I had most craved. Surely this must be the influence of a
star of fortune. Surely now if I had the least trace of ability, I
should be in a better position than I had ever been in before. I looked
about the great room, as I waited patiently and delightedly, and saw
pasted on the walls at intervals printed cards which read: _Accuracy,
Accuracy, Accuracy! Who? What? Where? When? How? The Facts—The Color—The
Facts!_ I knew what those signs meant: the proper order for beginning a
newspaper story. Another sign insisted upon _Promptness, Courtesy,
Geniality!_ Most excellent traits, I thought, but not as easy to put
into execution as comfortable publishers and managing editors might
suppose.

Presently I was called over and told to take a seat, after being told:
“I’ll have an assignment for you after a while.” That statement meant
work, an opportunity, a salary. I felt myself growing apace, only the
eye and the glance of my immediate superior was by no means cheering or
genial. This man was holding a difficult position, one of the most
difficult in newspaperdom in America at the time, and under one of the
most eccentric and difficult of publishers, Joseph Pulitzer.

This same Pulitzer, whom Alleyne Ireland subsequently characterized in
so brilliant a fashion as to make this brief sketch trivial and
unimportant save for its service here as a link in this tale, was a
brilliant and eccentric Magyar Jew, long since famous for his
journalistic genius. At that time he must have been between fifty-five
and sixty years of age, semi-dyspeptic and half-blind, having almost
wrecked himself physically, or so I understood, in a long and grueling
struggle to ascend to preeminence in the American newspaper world. He
was the chief owner, as I understood, of not only the New York _World_
but the St. Louis _Post-Dispatch_, the then afternoon paper of largest
circulation and influence in that city. While I was in St. Louis the air
of that newspaper world was surcharged or still rife with this
remarkable publisher’s past exploits—how once, when he was starting in
the newspaper world as a publisher, he had been horsewhipped by some
irate citizen for having published some derogatory item, and, having
tamely submitted to the castigation, had then rushed into his sanctum
and given orders that an extra should be issued detailing the attack in
order that the news value might not be lost to the counting-room.
Similarly, one of his St. Louis city or managing editors (one Colonel
Cockerill by name, who at this very time or a very little later was
still one of the managing editors of the New York _World_) had, after
conducting some campaign of exposure against a local citizen by order of
his chief, and being confronted in his office by the same, evidently
come to punish him, drawn a revolver and killed him.

That was a part of what might have been called the makings of this great
newspaper figure. Here in New York, after his arrival on the scene in
1884, at which time he had taken over a moribund journal called the
_World_, he had literally succeeded in turning things upside down, much
as did William Randolph Hearst after him, and as had Charles A. Dana and
others before him. Like all aggressive newspaper men worthy the name, he
had seized upon every possible vital issue and attacked, attacked,
attacked—Tammany Hall, Wall Street (then defended by the _Sun_ and the
_Herald_), the house of Morgan, some phases of society, and many other
features and conditions of the great city. For one thing, he had cut the
price of his paper to one cent, a move which was reported to have
infuriated his conservative and quiescent rivals, who were getting two,
three and five and who did not wish to be disturbed in their peaceful
pursuits. The _Sun_ in particular, which had been _made_ by the
brilliant and daring eccentricity of Dana and his earlier radicalism,
and the _Herald_, which originally owed its growth and fame to the
monopoly-fighting skill of Bennett, were now both grown conservative and
mutually attacked him as low, vulgar, indecent and the like, an upstart
Jew whose nose was in every putrescent dunghill, ratting out filth for
the consumption of the dregs of society. But is it not always so when
any one arises who wishes to break through from submersion or
nothingness into the white light of power and influence? Do not the
resultant quakes always infuriate those who have ceased growing or are
at least comfortably quiescent and who do not wish to be disturbed?

Just the same, this man, because of his vital, aggressive, restless,
working mood, and his vaulting ambition to be all that there was to be
of journalistic force in America, was making a veritable hell of his
paper and the lives of those who worked for him. And although he himself
was not present at the time but was sailing around the world on a yacht,
or living in a villa on the Riviera, or at Bar Harbor, or in his town
house in New York or London, you could feel the feverish and disturbing
and distressing ionic tang of his presence in this room as definitely as
though he were there in the flesh. Air fairly sizzled with the ionic
rays of this black star. Of secretaries to this editor-publisher and
traveling with him at the time but coming back betimes to nose about the
paper and cause woe to others, there were five. Of sons, by no means in
active charge but growing toward eventual control, two. Of managing
editors, all slipping about and, as the newspaper men seemed to think,
spying on each other, at one time as many as seven. He had so little
faith in his fellow-man, and especially such of his fellow-men as were
so unfortunate as to have to work for him, that he played off one
against another as might have the council of the Secret Ten in Venice,
or as did the devils who ruled in the Vatican in the Middle Ages. Every
man’s hand, as I came to know in the course of time, was turned against
that of every other. All were thoroughly distrustful of each other and
feared the incessant spying that was going on. Each, as I was told and
as to a certain extent one could feel, was made to believe that he was
the important one, or might be, presuming that he could prove that the
others were failures or in error. Proposed editorials, suggestions for
news features, directions as to policy and what not, were coming in from
him every hour via cable or telegraph. Nearly every issue of any
importance was being submitted to him by the same means. He was, as
described by this same Alleyne Ireland, undoubtedly semi-neurasthenic, a
disease-demonized soul, who could scarcely control himself in anything,
a man who was fighting an almost insane battle with life itself, trying
to be omnipotent and what not else, and never to die.

But in regard to the men working here how sharp a sword of disaster
seemed suspended above them by a thread, the sword of dismissal or of
bitter reprimand or contempt. They had a kind of nervous, resentful
terror in their eyes as have animals when they are tortured. All were
either scribbling busily or hurrying in or out. Every man was for
himself. If you had asked a man a question, as I ventured to do while
sitting here, not knowing anything of how things were done here, he
looked at you as though you were a fool, or as though you were trying to
take something away from him or cause him trouble of some kind. In the
main they hustled by or went on with their work without troubling to pay
the slightest attention to you. I had never encountered anything like it
before, and only twice afterwards in my life did I find anything which
even partially approximated it, and both times in New York. After the
peace and ease of Pittsburgh—God! But it was immense, just the
same—terrific.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER LXXII


AFTER I had waited an hour or so, a boy came up and said: “The city
editor wants to see you.” I hurried forward to the desk of that Poohbah,
who merely handed me a small clipping from another paper giving an
account of some extra-terrestrial manifestations that had been taking
place in a graveyard near Elizabeth, and told me to “see what there is
in that.” Unsophisticated as I was as to the ways of the metropolis, and
assuming, Western-fashion, that I might ask a question of my new chief,
I ventured a feeble “Where is that?” For my pains I received as
contemptuous a look as it is possible for one human being to give
another.

“Back of the directory! Back of the directory!” came the semi-savage
reply, and not quite realizing what was meant by that I retired
precipitately, trying to think it out.

Almost mechanically I went to the directory, but fumbling through that
part of it which relates to streets and their numbers I began to realize
that Elizabeth was a town and not a street. At a desk near the directory
I noticed a stout man of perhaps forty, rotund and agreeable, who seemed
to be less fierce and self-centered than some of the others. He had
evidently only recently entered, for he had kicked off a pair of
overshoes and laid a greatcoat over a chair beside him and was
scribbling.

“Can you tell me how I can get to Elizabeth?” I inquired of him.

“Sure,” he said, looking up and beginning to chuckle. “I haven’t been in
the city very long myself, but I know where that is. It’s on the Jersey
Central, about twelve miles out. You’ll catch a local by going down to
the Liberty Street ferry. I heard him tell you ‘Back of the directory,’”
he added genially. “You mustn’t mind that—that’s what they always tell
you here, these smart alecks,” and he chuckled, very much like my friend
McCord. “They’re the most inconsiderate lot I ever went up against, but
you have to get used to it. Out where I came from they’ll give you a
civil answer once in a while, but here it’s ‘Back of the directory,’”
and he chuckled again.

“And where do you come from?” I asked.

“Oh, Pittsburgh originally,” he said, which same gave me a spiritual
lift, “but I haven’t been in the game for several years. I’ve been doing
press agent work for a road show, one of my own,” and he chuckled again.
“I’m not a stranger to New York exactly, but I am to this paper and this
game down here.”

I wanted to stay longer and talk to him, but I had to hurry on this my
first assignment in New York. “Is this your desk?” I asked.

“No; they haven’t deigned to give me one yet,” and he chuckled again.
“But I suppose I will get one eventually—if they don’t throw me out.”

“I hope I’ll see you when I get back.”

“Oh, I’ll be around here, if I’m not out in the snow. It’s tough, isn’t
it?” and he turned to his work again. I bustled out through that same
anteroom where I had been restrained, and observed to my pestiferous
opponents: “Now just take notice, Eddie. I belong here, see? I work
here. And I’ll be back in a little while.”

“Oh, dat’s all right,” he replied with a grin. “We gotta do dat. We
gotta keep mosta dese hams outa here, dough. Dat’s de orders we got.”

“Hams?” I thought. “They let these little snips speak of strangers as
hams! That’s New York for you!”

I made the short dreary commuters’ trip to Elizabeth. When I found my
graveyard and the caretaker thereof, he said there was no truth in the
story. No man by the name of the dead man mentioned had ever been buried
there. No noises or appearances of any kind had been recorded. “They’re
always publishing things like that about New Jersey,” he said. “I wish
they’d quit it. Some newspaper fellow just wanted to earn a little
money, that’s all.”

I tramped back, caught a train and reached the office at eight. Already
most of the assignments had been given out. The office was comparatively
empty. The city editor had gone to dinner. At a desk along a wall was a
long, lean, dyspeptic-looking man, his eyes shaded by a green shield,
whom I took to be the night editor, so large was the pile of “copy”
beside him, but when I ventured to approach him he merely glared sourly.
“The city desk’s not closed yet,” he growled. “Wait’ll they come back.”

I retired, rebuffed again.

Presently one of the assistants reappeared and I reported to him.
“Nothing to it, eh?” he observed. “But there ought to be some kind of a
josh to it.” I did not get him. He told me to wait around, and I sought
out an empty desk and sat down. The thing that was interesting me was
how much I should be paid per week. In the meanwhile I contented myself
with counting the desks and wondering about the men who occupied them,
who they were, and what they were doing. To my right, against the north
wall, were two roll-top desks, at one of which was seated a dapper
actor-like man writing and posting. He was arrayed in a close-fitting
gray suit, with a bright vest and an exceedingly high collar. Because of
some theatrical programs which I saw him examining, I concluded that he
must be connected with the dramatic department, probably _the_ dramatic
critic. I was interested and a little envious. The dramatic department
of a great daily in New York seemed a wonderful thing to me.

After a time also there entered another man who opened the desk next the
dramatic critic. He was medium tall and stocky, with a mass of loose
wavy hair hanging impressively over his collar, not unlike the advance
agent of a cure-all or a quack Messiah. His body was encased in a huge
cape-coat which reached to his knees after the best manner of a
tragedian. He wore a large, soft-brimmed felt, which he now doffed
rather grandiosely, and stood a big cane in the corner. He had, the look
and attitude of a famous musician, the stage-type, and evidently took
himself very seriously. I put him down as the musical critic at least,
some great authority of whom I should hear later.

Time went by, and I waited. Through the windows from where I was sitting
I could see the tops of one or two buildings, one holding a clock-face
lighted with a green light. Being weary of sitting, I ventured to leave
my seat and look out to the south. Then for the first time I saw that
great night panorama of the East River and the bay with its ships and
docks, and the dark mass of buildings in between, many of them still
lighted. It was a great scene, and a sense of awe came over me. New York
was so vast, so varied, so rich, so hard. How was one to make one’s way
here? I had so little to offer, merely a gift of scribbling; and money,
as I could see, was not to be made in that way.

The city editor returned and told me to attend a meeting of some
committee which looked to the better lighting and cleaning of a certain
district. It was all but too late, as I knew, and if reported would be
given no more than an inch of space. I took it rather dejectedly. Then
fell the worst blow of all. “Wait a minute,” he said, as I moved to
depart. “I wanted to tell you. I can’t make you a reporter yet—there is
no vacancy on our regular staff. But I’ll put you on space, and you can
charge up whatever you get in at seven-and-a-half a column. We allow
fifty cents an hour for time. Show up tomorrow at eleven, and I’ll see
if anything turns up.”

My heart sank to my shoes. No reportorial staff with which I had ever
been connected had been paid by space. I went to the meeting and found
that it was of no importance, and made but one inch, as I discovered
next morning by a careful examination of the paper. And a column of the
paper measured exactly twenty-one inches! So my efforts this day,
allowing for time charged for my first trip, had resulted in a total of
one dollar and eighty-six cents, or a little less than street-sweepers
and snow-shovelers were receiving.

But this was not all. Returning about eleven with this item, I ventured
to say to the night editor now in charge: “When does a man leave here?”

“You’re a new space man, aren’t you?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You have the late watch tonight.”

“And how late is that?”

“Until after the first edition is on the press,” he growled.

Not knowing when that was I still did not venture to question him but
returned to another reporter working near at hand, who told me I should
have to stay until three. At that time my green-shaded mentor called,
“You might as well go now,” and I made my way to the Sixth Avenue L and
so home, having been here since one o’clock of the preceding day. The
cheerful face of my sister sleepily admitting me was quite the best
thing that this brisk day in the great city had provided.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER LXXIII


THE next morning, coming down at eleven I encountered my friend of the
day before, whom I found looking through the paper and checking up such
results as he had been able to achieve. “Tst! Tst!” he clicked to
himself as he went over the pages, looking high and low for a minute
squib which he had managed to get in. Looking around and seeing me near
at hand, he said: “Positively, this is the worst paper in New York. I’ve
always heard it was, and now I know it. This damned crowd plays
favorites. They have an inside ring, a few pets, who get all the cream,
and fellows like you and me get the short ends. Take me yesterday: I was
sent out on four lousy little stories, and not one amounted to anything.
I tramped and rode all over town in the snow, listened to a lot of fools
spout, and this morning I have just three little items. Look at that—and
that—and that!” and he pointed to checkmarks on different pages. They
made a total of, say, seven or eight inches, the equivalent in cash of
less than three dollars. “And I’m supposed to live on that,” he went on,
“and I have a boy and a girl in school! How do they figure that a man is
to get along?”

I had no consolation to offer him. After a time he resumed: “What they
do is to get strangers like us, or any of these down-and-out newspaper
men always walking up and down Park Row looking for a job, and get us to
work on space because it sounds bigger to a greenhorn. Sure they have
space-men here who amount to something, fellows who get big money, but
they’re not like us. They make as much as seventy-five and a hundred
dollars a week. But they’re rewrite men, old reporters who have too big
a pull and who are too sure of themselves to stand for the low salaries
they pay here. But they’re at the top. We little fellows are told that
stuff about space, but all we get is leg-work. If you or I should get
hold of a good story don’t you ever think they’d let us write it. I know
that much. They’d take it away and give it to one of these rewrite
fellows. There’s one now,” and he pointed to a large comfortable man in
a light brown overcoat and brown hat who was but now ambling in. “He
rewrote one of my stories just the other day. If they wanted you for
regular work they’d make you take a regular salary for fear you’d get
too much of space. They just keep us little fellows as extras to follow
up such things as they wouldn’t waste a good man on. And they’re always
firing a crowd of men every three or four months to keep up the zip of
the staff, to keep ’em worried and working hard. I hate the damned
business. I told myself in Pittsburgh that I never would get back in it
again, but here I am!”

This revelation made me a little sick. So this was my grand job! A long
period of drudgery for little or nothing, my hard-earned money
exhausted—and then what?

“Just now,” he went on, “there’s nothing doing around the town or I
wouldn’t be here. I’m only staying on until I can get something better.
It’s a dog’s life. There’s nothing in it. I worked here all last week,
and what do you think I made? Twelve dollars and seventy-five cents for
the whole week, time included. Twelve dollars and seventy-five cents!
It’s an outrage!”

I agreed with him. “What is this time they allow?” I asked. “How do they
figure—expenses and all?”

“Sure, they allow expenses, and I’m going to figure mine more liberally
from now on. It’s a little bonus they allow you for the time you work,
but you don’t get anything anyhow. I’ll double any railroad fare I pay.
If they don’t like it they can get somebody else. But they won’t let you
do too much of it, and if you can’t make a little salary on small stuff
they won’t keep you even then.” He grinned. “Anything big goes to the
boys on a salary, and if it’s real big the space-men, who are on salary
and space also, get the cream. I went out on a story the other afternoon
and tramped around in the rain and got all the facts, and just as I was
going to sit down and write it—well, I hadn’t really got started—one of
the managing editors—there are about twenty around here—came up and took
it away from me and gave it to somebody else to write. All I got was
‘time.’ Gee, I was sore! But I don’t care,” he added with a chuckle.
“I’ll be getting out of here one of these days.”

Being handed this dose of inspiring information, I was in no mood for
what followed; although I decided that this series of ills that were now
befalling him was due to the fact that he was older than myself and
maybe not very efficient, whereas in my case, being young, efficient,
etc., etc—the usual mental bonus youth hands itself—I should do better.
But when it came to my assignments this day and the next and the next,
and in addition I was “handed” the late watch, my cock sureness began to
evaporate. Each day I was given unimportant rumors or verification
tales, which came to nothing. So keen was the competition between the
papers, especially between the _World_ and the _Sun_, or the _World_ and
the _Herald_, that almost everything suggested by one was looked into
and criticized by the others. The items assigned to me this second day
were: to visit the city morgue and there look up the body of a young and
beautiful girl who was supposed to have drowned herself or been drowned
and see if this was true, as another paper had said (and of course she
was not beautiful at all); to visit a certain hotel to find out what I
could about a hotel beat who had been arrested (this item, although
written, was never used); to visit a Unitarian conference called to
debate some supposed changes in faith or method of church development,
the date for which however had been changed without notice to the
papers, for which I was allowed time and carfare. My time, setting aside
the long and wearisome hours in which I sat in the office awaiting my
turn for an assignment, netted me the handsome sum of two dollars and
fifty cents. And all the time in this very paper, I could read the
noblest and most elevating discourses about duty, character, the need of
a higher sense of citizenship, and what not. I used to frown at the
shabby pecksniffery of it, the cheap buncombe that would allow a great
publisher to bleed and drive his employees at one end of his house and
deliver exordiums as to virtue, duty, industry, thrift, honesty at the
other.

However, despite these little setbacks and insights, I was not to be
discouraged. The fact that I had succeeded elsewhere made me feel that
somehow I should succeed here. Nevertheless, in spite of this sense of
efficiency, I was strangely overawed and made more than ordinarily
incompetent by the hugeness and force and heartlessness of the great
city, its startling contrasts of wealth and poverty, the air of
ruthlessness and indifference and disillusion that everywhere prevailed.
Only recently there had been a disgusting exposure of the putrescence
and heartlessness and brutality which underlay the social structure of
the city. There had been the Lexow Investigation with its sickening
revelations of graft and corruption, and the protection and
encouragement of vice and crime in every walk of political and police
life. The most horrible types of brothels had been proved to be not only
winked at but preyed upon by the police and the politicians by a fixed
and graded monthly tax in which the patrolman, the “roundsman,” the
captain and the inspector, to say nothing of the district leader,
shared. There was undeniable proof that the police and the politicians,
even the officials, of the city were closely connected with all sorts of
gambling and wire-tapping and bunco-steering, and even the subornation
of murder. To the door of every house of prostitution and transient
rooming-house the station police captain’s man, the _roundsman_, came as
regularly as the rent or the gas man, and took more away. “Squealers”
had been murdered in cold blood for their squealing. A famous chief of
police, Byrnes by name, reputed at that time, far and wide, for his
supposed skill in unraveling mysteries, being faced by a saturnalia of
crime which he could not solve, had finally in self-defense caused to be
arrested, tried, convicted and electrocuted, all upon suborned
testimony, an old, helpless, half-witted bum known as Old Shakespeare,
whose only crime was that he was worthless and defenseless. But the
chief had thereby saved his “reputation.” Not far from the region in
which my sister lived, although it was respectable enough in its way,
tramped countless girls by night and by day looking for men, the great
business of New York, and all preyed upon by the police. On several
occasions, coming home from work after midnight, I found men lying
hatless, coatless, trousers pockets pulled out, possibly their skulls
fractured, so inadequate or indifferent or conniving was the so-called
police protection.

Nowhere before had I seen such a lavish show of wealth, or, such bitter
poverty. In my reporting rounds I soon came upon the East Side; the
Bowery, with its endless line of degraded and impossible lodging-houses,
a perfect whorl of bums and failures; the Brooklyn waterfront, parts of
it terrible in its degradation; and then by way of contrast again the
great hotels, the mansions along Fifth Avenue, the smart shops and clubs
and churches. When I went into Wall Street, the Tenderloin, the Fifth
Avenue district, the East and West sides, I seemed everywhere to sense
either a terrifying desire for lust or pleasure or wealth, accompanied
by a heartlessness which was freezing to the soul, or a dogged
resignation to deprivation and misery. Never had I seen so many
down-and-out men—in the parks, along the Bowery and in the
lodging-houses which lined that pathetic street. They slept over
gratings anywhere from which came a little warm air, or in doorways or
cellar-ways. At a half dozen points in different parts of the city I
came upon those strange charities which supply a free meal to a man or
lodging for the night, providing that he came at a given hour and waited
long enough.

And never anywhere had I seen so much show and luxury. Nearly all of the
houses along upper Fifth Avenue and its side streets boasted their
liveried footmen. Wall Street was a sea of financial trickery and
legerdemain, a realm so crowded with sharklike geniuses of finance that
one’s poor little arithmetic intelligence was entirely discounted and
made ridiculous. How was a sniveling scribbler to make his way in such a
world? Nothing but chance and luck, as I saw it, could further the
average man or lift him out of his rut, and since when had it been
proved that I was a favorite of fortune? A crushing sense of
incompetence and general in-efficiency seemed to settle upon me, and I
could not shake it off. Whenever I went out on an assignment—and I was
always being sent upon those trivial, shoe-wearing affairs—I carried
with me this sense of my unimportance.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER LXXIV


IT is entirely possible that, due to some physical or mental defect of
my own, I was in no way fitted to contemplate so huge and ruthless a
spectacle as New York then presented, or that I had too keen a
conception of it at any rate. After a few days of work here I came in
touch with several newspaper men from the West—a youth by the name of
Graves, another by the name of Elliott, both formerly of Chicago, and a
third individual who had once been in St. Louis, Wynne Thomas, brother
of the famous playwright, Augustus. All were working on this paper, two
of them in the same capacity as myself, the third a staff man. At night
we used to sit about doing the late watch and spin all sorts of
newspaper tales. These men had wandered from one place to another, and
had seen—heavens, what had they not seen! They were completely
disillusioned. Here, as in newspaper offices everywhere, one could hear
the most disconcerting tales of human depravity and cruelty. I think
that in the hours I spent with these men I learned as much about New
York and its difficulties and opportunities, its different social
strata, its outstanding figures social and political, as I might have
learned in months of reporting and reading. They seemed to know every
one likely to figure in the public eye. By degrees they introduced me to
others, and all confirmed the conclusions which I was reaching. New York
was difficult and revolting. The police and politicians were a menace;
vice was rampant; wealth was shamelessly showy, cold and brutal. In New
York the outsider or beginner had scarcely any chance at all, save as a
servant. The city was overrun with hungry, loafing men of all
descriptions, newspaper writers included.

After a few weeks of experimenting, however, I had no need of
confirmation from any source. An assignment or two having developed well
under my handling, and I having reported my success to the city editor,
I was allowed to begin to write it, then given another assignment and
told to turn my story over to the large gentleman with the gold-headed
cane. This infuriated and discouraged me, but I said nothing. I thought
it might be due to the city editor’s conviction, so far not disturbed by
any opportunity I had had, that I could not write.

But one night, a small item about a fight in a tenement house having
been given me to investigate, I went to the place in question and found
that it was a cheap beer-drinking brawl on the upper East Side which had
its origin in the objection of one neighbor to the noise made by
another. I constructed a ridiculous story of my own to the effect that
the first irritated neighbor was a musician who had been attempting at
midnight to construct a waltz, into which the snores, gurgles, moans and
gasps of his slumberous next-door neighbor would not fit. Becoming
irritated and unable by calls and knocking to arouse his friend and so
bring him to silence, he finally resorted to piano banging and
glass-breaking of such a terrible character as to arouse the entire
neighborhood and cause the sending in of a riot call by a policeman, who
thought that a tenement war had broken out. Result: broken heads and an
interesting parade to the nearest police station. Somewhere in the text
I used the phrase “sawing somnolent wood.”

Finding no one in charge of the city editor’s desk when I returned, I
handed my account to the night city editor. The next morning, lo and
behold, there it was on the first page consuming at least a fourth of a
column! To my further surprise and gratification, once the city editor
appeared I noticed a change of attitude in him. While waiting for an
assignment, I caught his eye on me, and finally he came over, paper in
hand, and pointing to the item said: “You wrote this, didn’t you?” I
began to think that I might have made a mistake in creating this bit of
news and that it had been investigated and found to be a fiction. “Yes,”
I replied. Instead of berating me he smiled and said: “Well, it’s rather
well done. I may be able to make a place for you after a while. I’ll see
if I can’t find an interesting story for you somewhere.”

And true to his word, he gave me another story on this order. In the
Hoffman House bar, one of the show-places of the city, there had been a
brawl the day before, a fight between a well-known society youth of
great wealth who owed the hotel money and would not pay as speedily as
it wished, and a manager or assistant manager who had sent him some form
of disturbing letter. All the details, as I discovered on reading the
item (which had been clipped from the _Herald_), had been fully covered
by that paper, and all that remained for me twenty-four hours later was
to visit the principals and extract some comments or additions to the
tale, which plainly I was expected to revamp in a humorous fashion.

As I have said, humor had never been wholly in my line, and in addition
I had by no means overcome my awe of the city and its imposing and
much-advertised “Four Hundred.” Now to be called upon to invade one of
its main hostelries and beard the irate and lofty manager in his den, to
say nothing of this young Vanderbilt or Goelet—well——I told myself that
when I reached this hotel the manager would doubtless take a very lofty
tone and refuse to discuss the matter—which was exactly what happened.
He was infuriated to think that he had been reported as fighting.
Similarly, should I succeed in finding this society youth’s apartment, I
should probably be snubbed or shunted off in some cavalier fashion—which
was exactly what happened. I was told that my Mr. X. was not there.
Then, as a conscientious newspaper man, I knew I should return to the
hotel and by cajolery or bribery see if I could not induce some
barkeeper or waiter who had witnessed the fight to describe some phase
of it that I might use.

But I was in no mood for this, and besides, I was afraid of these New
York waiters and managers and society people. Suppose they complained of
my tale and denounced me as a faker? I returned to the hotel, but its
onyx lobby and bar and its heavy rococo decorations and furniture took
my courage away. I lingered about but could not begin my inquiries, and
finally walked out. Then I went back to the apartment house in which my
youth lived, but still he was not in and I could extract no news from
the noble footman who kept the door. I did not see how I was to conjure
up humor from the facts in hand. Finally I dropped it as unworthy of me
and returned to the office. In doing so I had the feeling that I was
turning aside an item by which, had I chosen to fake, I could have
furthered myself. I knew now that what my city editor wanted was not
merely “accuracy, accuracy, accuracy,” but a kind of flair for the
ridiculous or the remarkable even though it had to be invented, so that
the pages of the paper, and life itself, might not seem so dull. Also I
realized that a more experienced man, one used to the ways of the city
and acquainted with its interesting and eccentric personalities, might
make something out of this and not come to grief; but not I. And so I
let it go, realizing that I was losing an excellent opportunity.

And I think that my city editor thought so too. When I returned and told
him that I could not find anything interestingly new in connection with
this he looked at me as much as to say, “Well, I’ll be damned!” and
threw the clipping on his desk. I am satisfied that if any reporter had
succeeded in uncovering any aspect of this case not previously used I
should have been dropped forthwith. As it turned out, however, nothing
more developed, and for a little time anyhow I was permitted to drag on
as before, but with no further favors.

One day, being given a part of a “badger” case to unravel, a man and
woman working together to divest a hotel man of a check for five
thousand dollars, and I having cajoled the lady in the case (then under
arrest) into making some interesting remarks as to her part in the
affair and badgering in general, I was not allowed to write it but had
to content myself with seeing my very good yarn incorporated in another
man’s story while I took “time.” Another day, having developed another
excellent tale of a runaway marriage, the girl being of a family of some
standing, I was not allowed to write it. I was beginning to see that I
was a hopeless failure as a reporter here.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER LXXV


THE things which most contributed to my want of newspaper success in New
York and eventually drove me, though much against my will and
understanding, into an easier and more agreeable phase of life were,
first, that awe of the grinding and almost disgusting forces of life
itself which I found in Spencer and Huxley and Balzac and which now
persistently haunted me and, due possibly to a depressed physical
condition at this time, made it impossible for me to work with any of
the zest that had characterized my work in the West. Next, there was
that astounding contrast between wealth and poverty, here more sharply
emphasized than anywhere else in America, which gave the great city a
gross and cruel and mechanical look, and this was emphasized not only by
the papers themselves, with their various summaries of investigations
and exposures, but also by my own hourly contact with it—a look so harsh
and indifferent at times as to leave me a little numb. Again, there was
something disillusioning in the sharp contrast between the professed
ideals and preachments of such a constantly moralizing journal as the
_World_ and the heartless and savage aspect of its internal economy. Men
such as myself were mere machines or privates in an ill-paid army to be
thrown into any breach. There was no time off for the space-men, unless
it was for all time. One was expected to achieve the results desired or
get out; and if one did achieve them the reward was nothing.

One day I met an acquaintance and asked about an ex-city editor from St.
Louis who had come to New York, and his answer staggered me.

“Oh, Cliff? Didn’t you hear? Why, he committed suicide down here in a
West Street hotel.”

“What was the trouble?” I asked.

“Tired of the game, I guess,” he replied. “He didn’t get along down here
as well as he had out there. I guess he felt that he was going
downhill.”

I walked away, meditating. He had been an excellent newspaper man, as
brisk and self-centered as one need be to prosper. The last time I had
seen him he was in good physical condition, and yet, after something
like a year in New York, he had killed himself.

However, my mood was not that of one who runs away from a grueling
contest. I had no notion of leaving New York, whatever happened,
although I constantly speculated as to what I should do when all my
money was gone. I had no trade or profession beyond this reporting, and
yet I was convinced that there must be something else that I could do.
Come what might, I was determined that I would ask no favor of my
brother, and as for my sister, who was now a burden on my hands, I was
determined that as soon as this burden became too great I would take up
her case with my brother Paul, outline all that had been done and ask
him to shoulder the difference until such time as I could find myself in
whatever work I was destined to do.

But what was it?

One of the things which oppressed me was the fact that on the _World_,
as well as on the other papers, were men as young as myself who were
apparently of a very different texture, mentally if not physically. Life
and this fierce contest which I was taking so much to heart seemed in no
wise to disturb them. By reason of temperament and insight perhaps,
possibly the lack of it, or, what was more likely, certain fortunate
circumstances attending their youth and upbringing, they were part of
that oncoming host of professional optimists and yea-sayers, chorus-like
in character, which for thirty years or more thereafter in American life
was constantly engaged in the pleasing task of emphasizing the
possibilities of success, progress, strength and what not for all, in
America and elsewhere, while at the same time they were humbly and
sycophantically genuflecting before the strong, the lucky, the
prosperous. On the _World_ alone at this time, to say nothing of the
other papers, were at least a dozen, swaggering about in the best of
clothes, their manners those of a graduate of Yale or Harvard or
Princeton, their minds stuffed with all the noble maxims of the
uplifters. There was nothing wrong with the world that could not be
easily and quickly righted, once the honest, just, true, kind,
industrious turned their giant and selected brains to the task. This
newest type of young newspaper man was to have no traffic with evil in
any form; he was to concern himself with the Good, the True, the
Beautiful. Many of these young men pretended to an intimate working
knowledge of many things: society, politics, finance and what not else.
Several had evidently made themselves indispensable as ship reporters,
interviewers of arriving and departing celebrities, and these were now
pointed out to me as men worthy of envy and emulation. One of them had,
at the behest of the _World_, crossed the ocean more than once seeking
to expose the principals in a growing ship-gambling and bunco scandal.
There were those who were in the confidence of the mayor, the governor,
and some of the lights in Wall Street. One, a scion of one of the best
families, was the paper’s best adviser as to social events and scandals.
The grand air with which they swung in and out of the office set me
beside myself with envy.

And all the time the condition of my personal affairs tended to make me
anything but optimistic. I was in very serious financial straits. I
sometimes think that I was too new to the city, too green to its
psychology and subtlety, to be of any use to a great metropolitan daily;
and yet, seeing all I had seen, I should have been worth something. I
was only five years distant from the composition of _Sister Carrie_, to
say nothing of many short stories and magazine articles. Yet I was
haunted by the thought that I was a misfit, that I might really have to
give up and return to the West, where in some pathetic humdrum task I
should live out a barren and pointless life.

With this probable end staring me in the face, I began to think that I
must not give up but must instead turn to letters, the art of
short-story writing; only just how to do this I could not see. One of
the things that prompted me to try this was the fact that on the _World_
at this time were several who had succeeded—David Graham Phillips, James
Creelman, then a correspondent for the paper in the war which had broken
out between China and Japan, to say nothing of George Cary Eggleston and
Reginald de Koven, the latter on the staff as chief musical critic.
There was another young man, whose name I have forgotten, who was
pointed out to me as a rapidly growing favorite in the office of the
_Century_. Then there were those new arrivals in the world of letters:
Kipling, Richard Harding Davis, Stephen Crane and some others, whose
success fascinated me.

All this was but an irritant to a bubbling chemistry which as yet had
found no solution, and was not likely to find one for some time to come.
My reading of Spencer and Huxley in no wise tended to clarify and impel
my mind in the direction of fiction, or even philosophy. But now, in a
kind of ferment or fever due to my necessities and desperation, I set to
examining the current magazines and the fiction and articles to be found
therein: _Century_, _Scribner’s_, _Harper’s_. I was never more
confounded than by the discrepancy existing between my own observations
and those displayed here, the beauty and peace and charm to be found in
everything, the almost complete absence of any reference to the coarse
and the vulgar and the cruel and the terrible. How did it happen that
these remarkable persons—geniuses of course, one and all—saw life in
this happy roseate way? Was it so, and was I all wrong? Love was almost
invariably rewarded in these tales. Almost invariably one’s dreams came
true, in the magazines. Most of these bits of fiction, delicately
phrased, flowed so easily, with such an air of assurance, omniscience
and condescension, that I was quite put out by my own lacks and defects.
They seemed to deal with phases of sweetness and beauty and success and
goodness such as I rarely encountered. There were so many tales of the
old South reeking with a poetry which was poetry and little more (George
W. Cable; Thomas Nelson Page). In _Harper’s_ I found such assured
writers as William Dean Howells, Charles Dudley Warner, Frank R.
Stockton, Mrs. Humphry Ward, and a score of others, all of whom wrote of
nobility of character and sacrifice and the greatness of ideals and joy
in simple things.

But as I viewed the strenuous world about me, all that I read seemed not
to have so very much to do with it. Perhaps, as I now thought, life as I
saw it, the darker phases, was never to be written about. Maybe such
things were not the true province of fiction anyhow. I read and read,
but all I could gather was that I had no such tales to tell, and,
however much I tried, I could not think of any. The kind of thing I was
witnessing no one would want as fiction. These writers seemed far above
the world of which I was a part. Indeed I began to picture them as
creatures of the greatest luxury and culture, gentlemen and ladies all,
comfortably housed, masters of servants, possessing estates, or at least
bachelor quarters, having horses and carriages, and received here, there
and everywhere with nods of recognition and smiles of approval.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER LXXVI


AND then after a little while, being assigned to do routine work in
connection with the East Twenty-seventh Street police station, Bellevue
Hospital, and the New York Charities Department, which included branches
that looked after the poor-farm, the morgue, an insane asylum or two, a
workhouse and what not else, I was called upon daily to face as
disagreeable and depressing a series of scenes as it is possible for a
human being to witness and which quite finished me. I was compelled to
inquire of fat, red-faced sergeants, and door-keepers who reigned in
police stations and hospital registry rooms what was new, and, by being
as genial and agreeable as possible and so earning their favor, to get
an occasional tip as to the most unimportant of brawls. Had I been in a
different mental state the thickness and incommunicability of some of
these individuals would not have been proof against my arts. I could
have devised or manufactured something.

But as it was the nature of this world depressed me so that I could not
have written anything very much worth while if I had wanted to. There
was the morgue, for instance—that horrible place! Daily from the
ever-flowing waters about New York there were recaptured or washed up in
all stages and degrees of decomposition the flotsam and jetsam of the
great city, its offal, its victims—its what? I came here often (it stood
at the foot of East Twenty-sixth Street near Bellevue Hospital) and
invariably I found the same old brown-denimed caretaker in charge, a
creature so thick and so lethargic and so mentally incompetent generally
that it was all I could do to extract a grunt of recognition out of him.
Yet, if handed a cigar occasionally or a bag of tobacco, he would
trouble to get out of his chair and let you look over a book or ledger
containing the roughly jotted down police descriptions, all done in an
amazing scrawl, of the height, weight, color of clothes if any,
complexion of hair and eyes where these were still distinguishable,
probable length of time in water, contents of pockets, jewelry or money
if any, etc., which same were to be noted in connection with any mystery
or disappearance of a person. And there was always some one “turning up
missing.” And I noticed, with considerable cynicism, that rarely if ever
was there any money or jewelry reported as found by the police. That
would be too much to expect.

Being further persuaded via blandishments or tips of one kind and
another, this caretaker would lead the way to a shelf of drawers
reaching from the floor to the chest-height of a man or higher and
running about two sides of the room, and opening those containing the
latest arrivals, supposing you were interested to look, would allow you
to gaze upon the last of that strange chemical formula which once
functioned as a human being here on earth. The faces! The decay! The
clothing! I stared in sad horror and promised myself that I would never
again look, but duty to the paper compelled me so to do again and again.

And then there was Bellevue itself, that gray-black collection of brick
and stone with connecting bridges of iron, which faced, in winter time
at least, the gray, icy waters of the East River. I have never been able
to forget it, so drear and bleak was it all. The hobbling ghouls of
caretakers in their baggy brown cotton suits to be seen wandering here
and there or hovering over stoves; the large number of half-well charity
patients idling about in gray-green denim, their faces sunken and
pinched, their hair poorly combed! And the chipper and yet often coarse
and vulgar and always overbearing young doctors and nurses and paid
attendants generally! One need but remember that it was the heyday of
the most corrupt period of Tammany Hall’s shameless political control of
New York, Mr. Croker being still in charge. Quite all of those old
buildings have since been replaced and surrounded by a tall iron fence
and bordered with an attractive lawn. In those days it was a little
different: there was the hospital proper, with its various wards, its
detention hospital for the criminal or insane, or both, the morgue and a
world of smaller pavilions stretching along the riverfront and connected
by walks or covered hallways or iron bridges, but lacking the dignity
and care of the later structures. There was, too, the dark psychology
which attends any badly or foully managed institution, that something
which hovers as a cloud over all. And Bellevue at that time had that air
and that psychology. It smacked more of a jail and a poor-house combined
than of a hospital, and so it was, I think. At that time it was a
seething world of medical and political and social graft, a kind of
human hell or sty. Those poor fish who live in comfortable and protected
homes and find their little theories and religious beliefs ready-made
for them in some overawing church or social atmosphere, should be
permitted to take an occasional peep into a world such as this was then.
At this very time there was an investigation and an exposure on in
connection with this institution, which had revealed not only the murder
of helpless patients but the usual graft in connection with food, drugs,
clothing, etc., furnished to the patients called charity. Grafting
officials and medics and brutes of nurses and attendants abounded, of
course. The number of “drunks” and obstreperous or complaining or
troublesome patients doped or beaten or thrown out and even killed, and
the number and quality of operations conducted by incompetent or
indifferent surgeons, was known and shown to be large. One need only
return to the legislative investigations of that date to come upon the
truth of this.

But the place was so huge and crowded that it was like a city in itself.
For one thing, it was a dumping-ground for all the offal gathered by the
police and the charity departments, to say nothing of being a realm of
“soft snaps” for political pensioners of all kinds. On such days as
relatives and friends of charity patients or those detained by the
police were permitted to call, the permit room fairly swarmed with
people who were pushed and shunted here and there like cattle, and
always browbeaten like slaves. I myself, visiting as a stranger
subsequently, was often so treated. “Who? What’s his name? What? Whendee
come? When? Talk a little louder, can’t you? Whatsy matter with your
tongue? Over there! Over there! Out that door there!” So we came,
procured our little cards, and passed in or out.

And the wretched creatures who were “cured” or written down well enough
to walk, and so, before a serious illness had been properly treated and
because they were not able to pay, were shunted out into the world of
the well and the strong with whom they were supposed to compete once
more and make their way. I used to see them coming and going and have
talked to scores, men and women who had never had a dollar above their
meager needs and who, once illness overtook them, had been swept into
this limbo, only to be turned out again at the end of a few weeks or
months to make their way as best they might, and really worse off than
when they came, for now they were in a weak condition physically as well
as penniless, and sometimes, as I noticed, on the day of their going the
weather was most inclement. And the old, wrinkled, washed-out clothing
doled out to them in which they were to once more wander back to the
tenements—to do what? There was a local charity organization at the
time, as there is today, but if it acted in behalf of any of these I
never saw it. They wandered away west on Twenty-sixth Street and along
First and Second Avenue, those drear, dismal, underdog streets—to where?

But by far the most irritating of all the phases of this institution, to
me at least, were the various officials and dancing young medics and
nurses in their white uniforms, the latter too often engaged in flirting
with one another or tennis-playing or reading in some warm room, their
feet planted upon a desk the while they smoked and the while the great
institution with all its company of miserables wagged its indifferent
way. When not actually visiting their patients one could always find
them so ensconced somewhere, reading or smoking or talking or flirting.
In spite of the world of misery that was thrashing about them they were
as comfortable as may be, and to me, when bent upon unraveling the
details of some particular case, they always seemed heartless. “Oh, that
old nut? What’s interesting about him? Surely you don’t expect to dig up
anything interesting about him, do you? He’s been here three weeks now.
No; we don’t know anything about him. Don’t the records show?” Or,
supposing he had died: “I knew he couldn’t live. We couldn’t give him
the necessary attention here. He didn’t have any money, and there’s too
many here as it is. Wanta see an interesting case?” And then one might
be led in to some wretch who was out of his mind or had an illusion of
some kind. “Funny old duck, eh? But there’s no hope. He’ll be dead in a
week or so.”

I think the most sickening thing I ever saw was cash gambling among two
young medics and a young nurse in charge of the receiving ward as to
whether the next patient to be brought in by the ambulance, which had
been sent out on a hurry accident call, would arrive alive or dead.

“Fifty that he’s dead!”

“Fifty that he isn’t!”

“I say alive!”

“I say dead!”

“Well, hand me that stethoscope. I’m not going to be fooled by looks
this time!”

Tearing in came the ambulance, its bell clanging, the hubs of the wheels
barely missing the walls of the entryway, and as the stretcher was
pulled out and set down on the stone step under the archway the three
pushed about and hung over, feeling the heart and looking at the eyes
and lips, now pale blue as in death, quite as one might crowd about a
curious specimen of plant or animal.

“He’s alive!”

“He’s dead!”

“I say he’s alive! Look at his eyes!” to illustrate which one eye was
forced open.

“Aw, what’s eatin’ you! Listen to his heart! Haven’t I got the stetho on
it? Listen for yourself!”

The man was dead, but the jangle lasted a laughing minute or more, the
while he lay there; then he was removed to the morgue and the loser
compelled to “come across” or “fork over.”

One of the internes who occasionally went out “on the wagon,” as the
ambulance was called, told me that once, having picked up a badly
injured man who had been knocked down by a car, this same ambulance on
racing with this man to the hospital had knocked down another and all
but killed him.

“And what did you do about him?” I asked.

“Stopped the boat and chucked him into it, of course.”

“On top of the other one?”

“Side by side, sure. It was a little close, though.”

“Well, did he die?”

“Yep. But the other one was all right. We couldn’t help it, though. It
was a life or death case for the first one.”

“A fine deal for the merry bystander,” was all I could say.

The very worst of all in connection with this great hospital, and I do
not care to dwell on it at too great length since it has all been
exposed before and the records are available, was this: about the
hospital, in the capacity of orderlies, doormen, gatemen, errand boys,
gardeners, and what not, were a number of down-and-out ex-patients or
pensioners of politicians so old and feeble and generally decrepit
mentally and physically as to be fit for little more than the
scrap-heap. Their main desire, in so far as I could see, was to sit in
the sun or safely within the warmth of a room and do nothing at all. If
you asked them a question their first impulse and greatest delight was
to say “Don’t know” or refer you to some one else. They were accused by
the half dozen reporters who daily foregathered here to be of the
lowest, so low indeed that they could be persuaded to do anything for a
little money. And in pursuance of this theory there was one day
propounded by a little red-headed Irish police reporter who used to hang
about there that he would bet anybody five dollars that for the sum of
fifteen dollars he could hire old Gansmuder, who was one of the
shabbiest and vilest-looking of the hospital orderlies, to kill a man.
According to him, and he had his information from one of the policemen
stationed in the hospital, Gansmuder was an ex-convict who had done ten
years’ time for a similar crime. Now old and penniless, he was here
finishing up a shameful existence, the pensioner of some politician to
whom he had rendered a service perhaps.

At any rate here he was, and, as one of several who heard the boast in
the news-room near the gate, I joined in the shout of derision that went
up. “Rot!” “What stuff!” “Well, you’re the limit, Mickey!” However, as
events proved, it was not so much talk as fact. I was not present at the
negotiations but from amazed accounts by other newspaper men I learned
that Gansmuder, being approached by Finn and one other (Finn first, then
the two of them together), agreed for the sum of twenty-five dollars, a
part of it to be paid in advance, to lie in wait at a certain street
corner in Brooklyn for an individual of a given description and there to
strike him in such a way as to dispose of him. Of course the
negotiations went no further than this, but somehow, true or no, this
one incident has always typified the spirit of that hospital, and indeed
of all political New York, to me. It was a period of orgy and crime, and
Bellevue and the charities department constituted the back door which
gave onto the river, the asylums, the potter’s field, and all else this
side of complete chemic dissolution.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER LXXVII


WHETHER due to a naturally weak and incompetent physique or a mind which
unduly tortures itself with the evidences of a none-too-smooth working
of the creative impulse and its machinery, or whether I had merely had
my fill of reportorial work as such and could endure no more, or
whatever else might have been the cause, I finally determined to get out
of the newspaper profession entirely, come what might and cost what it
might, although just what I was to do once I was out I could not guess.
I had no trade or profession other than this, and the thought of editing
or writing for anything save a newspaper was as far from me as
engineering or painting. I did not think I could write anything beyond
newspaper news items, and with this conclusion many will no doubt be
glad to agree with me even unto this day.

Yet out of this messy and heartless world in which I was now working I
did occasionally extract a tale that was printable, only so low was my
credit that I rarely won the privilege of writing it myself. Had I
imagined that I could write I might easily have built up stories out of
what I saw which would have shocked the souls of the magazine editors
and writers, but they would never have been published. They would have
been too low, gruesome, drab, horrible, and so beyond the view of any
current magazine or its clientele.

Life at that time, outside the dark picture of it presented by the daily
papers, must, as I have shown, be all sweetness and gayety and humor. We
must discuss only our better selves, and arrive at a happy ending; or if
perchance this realer world must be referred to it must be indicated in
some cloudy manner which would give it more the charm of shadow than of
fact, something used to enhance the values of the lighter and more
perfect and beautiful things with which our lives must concern
themselves. Marriage, if I read the current magazines correctly, was a
sweet and delicate affair, never marred by the slightest erratic conduct
of any kind. Love was made in heaven and lasted forever. Ministers,
doctors, lawyers and merchants, were all good men, rarely if ever guilty
of the shams and subterfuges and trashy aspects of humanity. If a man
did an evil thing it was due to his lower nature, which really had
nothing to do with his higher—and it was a great concession for the
intelligentsia of that day (maybe of this) to admit that he had two
natures, one of which was not high. Most of us had only the higher one,
our better nature.... When I think of the literary and social snobbery
and bosh of that day, its utter futility and profound faith in its own
goodness, as opposed to facts of its own visible life, I have to smile.

But it never occurred to me that I could write, in the literary sense,
and as for editing, I never even thought of it. And yet that was the
very next thing I did. I wandered about thinking what I was to do,
deciding each day that if I had the courage of a rat I would no longer
endure this time-consuming game of reporting, for the pitiful sum which
I was allowed to draw. What more could it do for me? I asked myself over
and over. Make me more aware of the brutality, subtlety, force, charm,
selfishness of life? It could not if I worked a hundred years.
Essentially, as I even then saw, it was a boy’s game, and I was slowly
but surely passing out of the boy stage. Yet in desperation because I
saw disappearing the amount which I had saved up in Pittsburgh, and I
had not one other thing in sight, I visited other newspaper offices to
see if I could not secure, temporarily at least, a better regular
salary. But no. Whenever I could get in to see a city or managing
editor, which was rare, no one seemed to want me. At the offices of the
_Herald_, _Times_, _Tribune_, _Sun_, and elsewhere the same outer office
system worked to keep me out, and I was by now too indifferent to the
reportorial work and too discouraged really to wish to force myself in
or to continue as a reporter at all. Indeed I went about this matter of
inquiry more or less perfunctorily, not really believing in either
myself or my work. If I had secured a well-paying position I presume
that I should have continued. Fortunately or unfortunately, as one
chooses to look at such things, I did not; but it seemed far from
fortunate then to me.

Finally one Saturday afternoon, having brought in a story which related
to a missing girl whose body was found at the morgue and being told to
“give the facts to —— and let him write it,” I summoned up sufficient
courage to say to the assistant who ordered me to do this:

“I don’t see why I should always have to do this. I’m not a beginner in
this game. I wrote stories, and big ones, before ever I came to this
paper.”

“Maybe you did,” he replied rather sardonically, “but we have the
feeling that you haven’t proved to be of much use to us.”

After this there was nothing to say and but one thing to do. I could not
say that I had had no opportunities; but just the same I was terribly
hurt in my pride. Without knowing what to do or where to go, I there and
then decided that, come what might, this was the end of newspaper
reporting for me. Never again, if I died in the fight, would I
condescend to be a reporter on any paper. I might starve, but if so—I
would starve. Either I was going to get something different, something
more profitable to my mind, or I was going to starve or get out of New
York.

I went to the assistant and turned over my data, then got my hat and
went out. I felt that I should be dismissed eventually anyhow for
incompetence and insubordination, so dark was my mood in regard to all
of it, and so out I went. One thing I did do; I visited the man who had
first ordered the city editor to put me on and submitted to him various
clippings of work done in Pittsburgh with the request that he advise me
as to where I might turn for work.

“Better try the _Sun_,” was his sane advice. “It’s a great school, and
you might do well over there.”

But although I tried I could not get on the _Sun_—not, at least, before
I had managed to do something else.

Thus ended my newspaper experiences, which I never resumed save as a
writer of Sunday specials, and then under entirely different
conditions—but that was ten years later. In the meantime I was now
perforce turning toward a world which had never seemed to contain any
future for me, and I was doing it without really knowing it. But that is
another story. It might be related under some such title as _Literary
Experiences_.

                  *       *       *       *       *

_N.B._ Four years later, having by then established myself sufficiently
to pay the rent of an apartment, secure furniture and convince myself
that I could make a living for two, I undertook that perilous adventure
with the lady of my choice—and that, of course, after the first flare of
love had thinned down to the pale flame of duty. Need anything more be
said? The first law of convention had been obeyed, whereas the governing
forces of temperament had been overridden—and with what results
eventually you may well suspect. So much for romance.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



● Transcriber’s note:

    ○ Missing or obscured punctuation was silently corrected.

    ○ Typographical errors were silently corrected.

    ○ Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation were made consistent only
      when a predominant form was found in this book.

    ○ The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in
      the public domain.





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