AN ADVENTURE WITH A GENIUS Recollections of JOSEPH PULITZER.
BY ALLEYNE IRELAND
AUTHOR OF "DEMOCRACY AND THE HUMAN EQUATION"
DEDICATED BY KIND PERMISSION AND WITH SINCERE REGARD TO MRS. JOSEPH PULITZER
In the course of my wanderings about the labyrinth of life it has been my good fortune to find awaiting me around every corner some new adventure. If these have generally lacked that vividness of action which to the eye of youth is the very test of adventure, they have been rich in a kind of experience which to a mature and reflective mind has a value not to be measured in terms of dramatic incident.
My adventures, in a word, have been chiefly those of personal contact with the sort of men whose lives are the material around which history builds its story, and from which fiction derives all that lends to it the air of reality.
I have had friends and acquaintances in a score of countries, and in every station of society—kings and beggars, viceroys and ward- politicians, judges and criminals, men of brain and men of brawn.
My first outstanding adventure was with a stern and formidable man, the captain of a sailing vessel, of whose ship's company I was one in a voyage across the Pacific; one of my most recent was with a man not less stern or formidable, with the man who is the central figure in the present narrative.
The tale has been told before in a volume entitled "Joseph Pulitzer: Reminiscences of a Secretary." The volume has been out of print for some time, but the continued demand for it has called for its re-issue. The change in title has been made in response to many suggestions that the character of the material is more aptly described as "An Adventure with a Genius."
ALLEYNE IRELAND. New York, 1920.
I. In a Casting Net II. Meeting Joseph Pulitzer III. Life at Cap Martin IV. Yachting in the Mediterranean V. Getting to Know Mr. Pulitzer VI. Weisbaden and an Atlantic Voyage VII. Bar Harbor and the Last Cruise
IN A CASTING NET
A long illness, a longer convalescence, a positive injunction from my doctor to leave friends and business associates and to seek some spot where a comfortable bed and good food could be had in convenient proximity to varied but mild forms of amusement—and I found myself in the autumn of the year 1910 free and alone in the delightful city of Hamburg.
All my plans had gone down wind, and as I sat at my table in the Cafe Ziechen, whence, against the background of the glittering blue of the Alster, I could see the busy life of the Alter Jungfernstieg and the Alsterdamm, my thoughts turned naturally to the future.
It is not the easiest thing in the world to reconstruct at forty years of age the whole scheme of your life; but my illness, and other happenings of a highly disagreeable character, had compelled me to abandon a career to which I had devoted twenty years of arduous labor; and the question which pressed for an immediate answer was: What are you going to do now?
Various alternatives presented themselves. There had been a suggestion that I should take the editorship of a newspaper in Calcutta; an important financial house in London had offered me the direction of its interests in Western Canada; a post in the service of the Government of India had been mentioned as a possibility by certain persons in authority.
My own inclination, the child of a weary spirit and of the lassitude of ill health, swayed me in the direction of a quiet retreat in Barbados, that peaceful island of an eternal summer cooled by the northeast trades, where the rush and turmoil of modern life are unknown and where a very modest income more than suffices for all the needs of a simple existence.
I shall never know to what issue my reflections upon these matters would have led me, for a circumstance, in the last degree trivial, intervened to turn my thoughts into an entirely new channel, and to guide me, though I could not know it at the time, into the service of Joseph Pulitzer.
My waiter was extremely busy serving a large party of artillery officers at an adjoining table. I glanced through The Times and the Hamburger Nachrichten, looked out for a while upon the crowded street, and then, resigning myself to the delay in getting my lunch, picked up The Times again and did what I had never done before in my life—read the advertisements under the head "Professional Situations."
All except one were of the usual type, the kind in which a prospective employer flatters a prospective employee by classing as "professional" the services of a typewriter or of a companion to an elderly gentleman who resides within easy distance of an important provincial town.
One advertisement, however, stood out from the rest on account of the peculiar requirements set forth in its terse appeal. It ran something after this fashion: "Wanted, an intelligent man of about middle age, widely read, widely traveled, a good sailor, as companion-secretary to a gentleman. Must be prepared to live abroad. Good salary. Apply, etc."
My curiosity was aroused; and at first sight I appeared to meet the requirements in a reasonable measure. I had certainly traveled widely, and I was an excellent sailor—excellent to the point of offensiveness. Upon an unfavorable construction I could claim to be middle-aged at forty; and I was prepared to live abroad in the unlikely event of any one fixing upon a country which could be properly called "abroad" from the standpoint of a man who had not spent twelve consecutive months in any place since he was fifteen years old.
As for intelligence, I reflected that for ninety-nine people out of a hundred intelligence in others means no more than the discovery of a person who is in intellectual acquiescence with themselves, and that if the necessity arose I could probably affect an acquiescence which would serve all the purposes of a fundamental identity of convictions.
Two things, however, suggested possible difficulties, the questions of what interpretations the advertiser placed upon the terms "widely read" and "good salary." I could not claim to be widely read in any conventional sense, for I was not a university graduate, and the very extensive reading I had done in my special line of study—the control and development of tropical dependencies—though it might entitle me to some consideration as a student in that field had left me woefully ignorant of general literature. Would the ability to discuss with intelligence the Bengal Regulation of 1818, or the British Guiana Immigration Ordinance of 1891 be welcomed as a set-off to a complete unfamiliarity with Milton's "Comus" and Gladstone's essay on the epithets of motion in Homer?
On the subject of what constituted a "good salary" experience had taught me to expect a very wide divergence of view, not only along the natural line of cleavage between the person paying and the person receiving the salary, but also between one employer and another and between one employee and another; and I recalled a story, told me in my infancy, in which a certain British laboring man had been heard to remark that he would not be the Czar of Russia, no, not for thirty shillings a week. But that element in the situation might, I reflected, very well be left to take care of itself.
I finished my lunch, and then replied to the advertisement, giving my English address. My letter, a composition bred of the conflicting influences of pride, modesty, prudence, and curiosity, brought forth in due course a brief reply in which I was bidden to an interview in that part of London where fashion and business prosperity seek to ape each other.
Upon presenting myself at the appointed hour I was confronted by a gentleman whose severity of manner I learned later to recognize as the useful mask to a singularly genial and kindly nature.
Our interview was long and, to me at any rate, rather embarrassing, since it resolved itself into a searching cross-examination by a past- master in the art. Who were my parents? When and where had I been born? Where had I been educated? What were my means of livelihood? What positions had I filled since I went out into the world? What countries had I visited? What books had I read? What books had I written? To what magazines and reviews had I contributed? Who were my friends? Was I fond of music, of painting, of the drama? Had I a sense of humor? Had I a good temper or a good control of a bad one? What languages could I speak or read? Did I enjoy good health? Was I of a nervous disposition? Had I tact and discretion? Was I a good horseman, a good sailor, a good talker, a good reader?
When it came to asking me whether I was a good horseman AND a good sailor, I realized that anyone who expected to find these two qualities combined in one man was quite capable of demanding that his companion- secretary should be able to knit woollen socks, write devotional verse, and compute the phases of the moon.
I remember chuckling to myself over this quaint conceit; I was to learn later that it came unpleasantly near the truth.
Under this close examination I felt that I had made rather a poor showing. This was due in some measure, no doubt, to the fact that my questioner abruptly left any topic as soon as he discovered that I knew something about it, and began to angle around, with disturbing success, to find the things I did not know about.
At one point, however, I scored a hit. After I had been put through my paces, a process which seemed to me to end only at the exact point where my questioner could no longer remember the name of anything in the universe about which he could frame an interrogation, it was my turn to ask questions.
Was the person I was addressing the gentleman who needed the companion?
No, he was merely his agent. As a matter of fact the person on whose behalf he was acting was an American.
I nodded in a non-committal way.
He was also a millionaire.
I bowed the kind of bow that a Frenchman makes when he says Mais parfaitement.
Furthermore he was totally blind.
"Joseph Pulitzer," I said.
"How in the world did you guess that?" asked my companion.
"That wasn't a guess," I replied. "You advertised for an intelligent man; and this is simply where my intelligence commences to show itself. An intelligent man couldn't live as long as I have in the United States without hearing a good deal about Joseph Pulitzer; and, after all, the country isn't absolutely overrun with blind millionaires."
At the close of the interview I was told that I would be reported upon. In the meantime would I kindly send in a written account of the interview, in the fullest possible detail, as a test of my memory, sense of accuracy, and literary style.
Nor was this all. As I prepared to take my departure I was handed the address of another gentleman who would also examine me and make a report. Before I got out of the room my inquisitor said, "It may interest you to know that we have had more than six hundred applications for the post, and that it may, therefore, take some time before the matter is definitely settled."
I was appalled. Evidently I had been wasting my time, for I could have no doubt that the gallant six hundred would include a sample of every kind of pundit, stationary or vagrant, encompassed within the seven seas; and against such competition I felt my chances to be just precisely nothing.
My companion observed my discomfiture. and as he shook hands he said, "Oh, that doesn't really mean very much. As a matter of fact we were able to throw out more than five hundred and fifty applications merely for self-evident reasons. A number of school teachers and bank clerks applied, and in general these gentlemen said that although they had not traveled they would have no objection to living abroad, and that they might venture to hope that if they DID go to sea they would prove to be good sailors.
"Most of them appeared to think that the circumstance of being middle- aged would off-set their deficiencies in other directions. There are really only a few gentlemen whom we can consider as being likely to meet Mr. Pulitzer's requirements, and the selection will be made finally by Mr. Pulitzer himself. It is very probable that you will be asked to go to Mentone to spend a fortnight or so on Mr. Pulitzer's yacht or at his villa at Cap Martin, as he never engages anybody until he has had the candidate with him for a short visit.
"And, by the way, would you mind writing a short narrative of your life, not more than two thousand words? It would interest Mr. Pulitzer and would help him to reach a decision in your case. You might also send me copies of some of your writings."
Thus ended my interview with Mr. James M. Tuohy, the London correspondent of the New York World.
My next step was to call upon the second inquisitor, Mr. George Ledlie. I found him comfortably installed at an hotel in the West End. He was an American, very courteous and pleasant, but evidently prepared to use a probe without any consideration for the feelings of the victim.
As my business was to reveal myself, I wasted no time, and for about an hour I rambled along on the subject of my American experiences. I do not know to this day what sort of an impression I created upon this gentleman, but I felt at the time that it ought to have been a favorable one.
We had many friends in common; I had recently been offered a lectureship in the university from which he had graduated; some of my books had been published in America by firms in whose standing he had confidence; I paraded a slight acquaintance with three Presidents of the United States, and produced from my pocketbook letters from two of them; we found that we were both respectful admirers of a charming lady who had recently undergone a surgical operation; he had been a guest at my club in Boston, I had been a guest at his club in New York. When I left him I thought poorly of the chances of the remnant of the six hundred.
Some weeks passed and I heard nothing more of the matter. During this time I had leisure to think over what I had heard from time to time about Joseph Pulitzer, and to speculate, with the aid of some imaginative friends, upon the probable advantages and disadvantages of the position for which I was a candidate.
Gathered together, my second-hand impressions of Joseph Pulitzer made little more than a hazy outline. I had heard or read that he had landed in New York in the early sixties, a penniless youth unable to speak a word of English; that after a remarkable series of adventures he had become a newspaper proprietor and, later, a millionaire; that he had been stricken blind at the height of his career; that his friends and his enemies agreed in describing him as a man of extraordinary ability and of remarkable character; that he had been victorious in a bitter controversy with President Roosevelt; that one of the Rothschilds had remarked that if Joseph Pulitzer had not lost his eyesight and his health he, Pulitzer, would have collected into his hands all the money there was; that he was the subject of one of the noblest portraits created by the genius of John Sargent; and that he spent most of his time on board a magnificent yacht, surrounded by a staff of six secretaries.
This was enough, of course, to inspire me with a keen desire to meet Mr. Pulitzer; it was not enough to afford me the slightest idea of what life would be like in close personal contact with such a man.
The general opinion of my friends was that life with Mr. Pulitzer would be one long succession of happy, care-free days spent along the languorous shores of the Mediterranean—days of which perhaps two hours would be devoted to light conversation with my interesting host, and the remainder of my waking moments to the gaities of Monte Carlo, to rambles on the picturesque hillsides of Rapallo and Bordighera, or to the genial companionship of my fellow-secretaries under the snowy awnings of the yacht.
We argued the matter out to our entire satisfaction. Mr. Pulitzer, in addition to being blind, was a chronic invalid, requiring a great deal of sleep and repose. He could hardly be expected to occupy more than twelve hours a day with his secretaries. That worked out at two hours apiece, or, if the division was made by days, about one day a week to each secretary.
The yacht, I had been given to understand, cruised for about eight months in the year over a course bounded by Algiers and the Piraeus, by Mentone and Alexandria, with visits to the ports of Italy, Sicily, Corsica, and Crete. The least imaginative of mortals could make a very fair and alluring picture of what life would be like under such circumstances. As the event turned out it was certainly not our imaginations that were at fault.
As time passed without bringing any further sign from Mr. Tuohy my hopes gradually died out, and I fixed in my mind a date upon which I would abandon all expectations of securing the appointment. Scarcely had I reached this determination when I received a telegram from Mr. Tuohy asking me to lunch with him the next day at the Cafe Royal in order to meet Mr. Ralph Pulitzer, who was passing through London on his way back to America after a visit to his father.
I leave my readers to imagine what sort of a lunch I had in the company of two gentlemen whose duty it was to struggle with the problem of discovering the real character and attainments of a guest who knew he was under inspection.
I found Mr. Ralph Pulitzer to be a slender, clean-cut, pale gentleman of an extremely quiet and self-possessed manner. He was very agreeable, and he listened to my torrent of words with an interest which, if it were real, reflected great credit on me, and which, if it were feigned, reflected not less credit on him.
As we parted he said, "I shall write to my father to-day and tell him of our meeting. Of course, as you know, the decision in this matter rests entirely with him."
After this incident there was another long silence, and I again fixed upon a day beyond which I would not allow my hopes to flourish. The day arrived, nothing happened, and the next morning I went down to the offices of the West India Royal Mail Steam Packet Company and made inquiries about the boats for Barbados. I spent the afternoon at my club making out a list of things to be taken out as aids to comfortable housekeeping in a semi-tropical country—a list which swelled amazingly as I turned over the fascinating pages of the Army and Navy Stores Catalogue.
By dinner time I had become more than reconciled to the new turn of affairs, and when I reached my flat at midnight I found myself impatient of the necessary delay before I could settle down to a life of easy literary activity in one of the most delightful climates in the world and in the neighborhood of a large circle of charming friends and acquaintances.
On the table in the hall I found a telegram from Mr. Tuohy instructing me to start next morning for Mentone, where Mr. Pulitzer would entertain me as his guest for a fortnight, either at his villa or aboard his yacht Liberty, and informing me that I would find at my club early in the morning an envelope containing a ticket to Mentone, with sleeper and parlor-car accommodation, and a check to cover incidental expenses.
The tickets and the check were accompanied by a letter in which I was told that I was to consider this two weeks' visit as a trial, that during that time all my expenses would be paid, that I would receive an honorarium of so much a day from the time I left London until I was engaged by Mr. Pulitzer or had arrived back in London after rejection by him, and that everything depended upon the impression I made on my host.
I left London cold, damp, and foggy; and in less than twenty-four hours I was in the train between Marseilles and Mentone, watching the surf playing among the rocks in the brilliant sunshine of the Cote d'Azur. In the tiny harbor of Mentone I found, anchored stern-on to the quay, the steam yacht Liberty—a miracle of snowy decks and gleaming brass-work— tonnage 1,607, length over all 316 feet, beam 35.6 feet, crew 60, all told.
A message from Mr. Pulitzer awaited me. Would I dine at his villa at Cap Martin? An automobile would call for me at seven o'clock.
I spent the day in looking over the yacht and in trying to pick up some information as to the general lay of the land, by observing every detail of my new surroundings.
The yacht itself claimed my first attention. Everything was new and fascinating to me, for although I had had my share of experiences in barques, and brigs, and full-rigged ships, in mail boats and tramp steamers, only once before had I had an opportunity to examine closely a large private yacht. Ten years before, I had spent some time cruising along the northern coast of Borneo in the yacht of His Highness Sir Charles Brooke, Raja of Sarawak; but with that single exception yachting was for me an unknown phase of sea life.
The Liberty—or, as the secretarial staff, for reasons which will become apparent later, called her, the Liberty, Ha! Ha!—was designed and built on the Clyde. I have never seen a vessel of more beautiful lines. Sailors would find, I think, but one fault in her appearance and one peculiarity. With a white-painted hull, her bridge and the whole of her upper structure, except the masts and funnel, were also white, giving to her general features a certain flatness which masked her fine proportions. Her bridge, instead of being well forward, was placed so far aft that it was only a few feet from the funnel. The object of this departure from custom was to prevent any walking over Mr. Pulitzer's head when he sat in his library, which was situated under the spot, where the bridge would have been in most vessels.
The boat was specially designed to meet Mr. Pulitzer's peculiar requirements. She had a flush deck from the bows to the stern, broken only, for perhaps twenty feet, by a well between the forecastle head and the fore part of the bridge.
Running aft from the bridge to within forty feet of the stern was an unbroken line of deck houses. Immediately afore the bridge was Mr. Pulitzer's library, a handsome room lined from floor to ceiling with books; abaft of that was the dining saloon, which could accommodate in comfort a dozen people; continuing aft there were, on the port side, the pantry, amidships the enclosed space over the engine room, and on the starboard side a long passage leading to the drawing-room and writing- room used by the secretaries and by members of Mr. Pulitzer's family when they were on the yacht.
The roof and sides of this line of deck houses were extended a few feet beyond the aftermost room, so as to provide a sheltered nook where Mr. Pulitzer could sit when the wind was too strong for his comfort on the open deck.
Between the sides of the deck houses and the sides of the ship there ran on each side a promenade about nine feet broad, unbroken by bolt or nut, stanchion or ventilator, smooth as a billiard table and made of the finest quality of seasoned teak. The promenade continued across the fore part of Mr. Pulitzer's library and across the after part of the line of deck houses, so that there was an oblong track round the greater part of the boat, a track covered overhead with double awnings and protected inboard by the sides of the deck houses, and outboard by adjustable canvas screens, which could be let down or rolled up in a few minutes.
About thirty feet from the stern a heavy double canvas screen ran 'thwartships from one side of the boat to the other, shutting off a small space of deck for the use of the crew. The main deck space was allotted as follows: under the forecastle head accommodation for two officers and two petty officers, abaft of that the well space, of which I have spoken; under the library was Mr. Pulitzer's bedroom, occupying the whole breadth of the ship and extending from the bulkhead at the after part of the well space as far aft as the companion way leading down between the library and the saloon, say twenty-five feet.
A considerable proportion of the sides of this bedroom was given up to books; in one corner was a very high wash-hand-stand, so high that Mr. Pulitzer, who was well over six feet tall, could wash his hands without stooping. The provision of this very high wash-hand-stand illustrates the minute care with which everything had been foreseen in the construction and fitting-up of the yacht. When a person stoops there is a slight impediment to the free flow of blood to the head, such an impediment might react unfavorably on the condition of Mr. Pulitzer's eyes, therefore the wash-hand-stand was high enough to be used without stooping.
In the forward bulkhead of the cabin were two silent fans, one drawing air into the room, the other drawing it out. The most striking feature of the room was an immense four-poster bed which stood in the center of the cabin, with a couch at the foot and one or two chairs at one side. Hanging at the head of the bed was a set of electric push-bells, the cords being of different lengths so that Mr. Pulitzer could call at will for the major-domo, the chief steward, the captain, the officer on watch, and so on.
The bedroom was heavily carpeted and was cut off from the rest of the ship by double bulkheads, double doors, and double portholes, with the object of protecting Mr. Pulitzer as much as possible from all noise, to which he was excessively sensitive. A large bathroom opened immediately off the bedroom, and a flight of steps led down to a gymnasium on the lower deck.
Abaft of Mr. Pulitzer's bedroom there were, on the port side, the cabins of the major-domo, the captain, the head butler, the chief engineer, an officers' mess room, the ship's galley, a steward's mess room, and the cabins of the chief steward and one or two officers.
Corresponding with these there were, on the starboard side, the cabins of the secretaries and the doctor, "The Cells," as we called them. They were comfortable rooms, all very much on one pattern, except that of the business secretary, which was a good deal larger than the others. He needed the additional space for newspaper files, documents, correspondence, and so on. Each cabin contained a bed, a wash-hand- stand, a chest of drawers, a cupboard for clothes, a small folding table, some book shelves, an arm chair, an ordinary chair, an electric fan, and a radiator. Each cabin had two portholes, and there were two bathrooms to the six cabins.
The center of the ship, between these cabins and the corresponding space on the port side, was occupied by the engine room; and the entrance to the secretaries' quarters was through a companionway opening on to the promenade deck, with a door on each side of the yacht, and leading down a flight of stairs to a long fore-and-aft passage, out of which all the secretaries' cabins opened.
Abaft the secretaries' cabins, and occupying the whole breadth of the boat, were a number of cabins and suites for the accommodation of Mrs. Pulitzer, other members of the family, and guests; and abaft of these, cut off by a 'thwartships bulkhead, were the quarters of the crew.
The lower deck was given over chiefly to stores, coal bunkers, the engine room, the stoke-hold, and to a large number of electric accumulators, which kept the electric lights going when the engines were not working. There were, however, on this deck the gymnasium, and a large room, directly under Mr. Pulitzer's bedroom, used to take the overflow from the library.
The engines were designed rather for smooth running than for speed, and twelve knots an hour was the utmost that could be got out of them, the average running speed being about eight knots. The yacht had an ample supply of boats, including two steam launches, one burning coal, the other oil.
During my inspection of the yacht I was accompanied by my cabin-steward, a young Englishman who had at one time served aboard the German Emperor's yacht, Meteor. Nothing could have been more courteous than his manner or more intelligent than his explanations; but the moment I tried to draw him out on the subject of life on the yacht he relapsed into a vagueness from which I could extract no gleam of enlightenment. After fencing for some time with my queries he suggested that I might like to have a glass of sherry and a biscuit in the secretaries' library, and, piloting me thither, he left me.
The smoking-room was furnished with writing tables, some luxurious arm chairs, and a comfortable lounge, and every spare nook was filled with book shelves. The contents of these shelves were extremely varied. A cursory glance showed me Meyer's Neues Konversations-Lexicon, The Yacht Register, Whitaker's Almanack, Who's Who, Burke's Peerage, The Almanack de Gotha, the British and the Continental Bradshaw, a number of Baedeker's "Guides," fifty or sixty volumes of the Tauchnitz edition, a large collection of files of reviews and magazines—The Nineteenth Century, Quarterly, Edinburgh, Fortnightly, Contemporary, National, Atlantic, North American, Revue de Deux Mondes—and a scattering of volumes by Kipling, Shaw, Hosebery, Pater, Ida Tarbell, Bryce, Ferrero, Macaulay, Anatole France, Maupassant, "Dooley," and a large number of French and German plays. I was struck by the entire absence of books of travel and scientific works.
I spent part of the afternoon in the drawing-room playing a large instrument of the gramophone type. There were several hundred records— from grand opera, violin solos by Kreisler, and the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, to rag-time and the latest comic songs.
Before the time came to dress for dinner I had met the captain and some of the officers of the yacht. They were all very civil; and my own experience as a sailor enabled me to see that they were highly efficient men. I was a good deal puzzled, however, by something peculiar but very elusive in their attitude toward me, something which I had at once detected in the manner of my cabin-steward.
With their courtesy was mingled a certain flavor of curiosity tinged with amusement, which, so far from being offensive, was distinctly friendly, but which, nevertheless, gave me a vague sense of uneasiness. In fact the whole atmosphere of the yacht was one of restlessness and suspense; and the effect was heightened because each person who spoke to me appeared to be on the point of divulging some secret or delivering some advice, which discretion checked at his lips.
I felt myself very much under observation, a feeling as though I was a new boy in a boarding school or a new animal at the zoo—interesting to my companions not only on account of my novelty, but because my personal peculiarities would affect the comfort of the community of which I was to become a member.
At seven o'clock my cabin-steward announced the arrival of the automobile, and after a swift run along the plage and up the winding roads on the hillsides of Cap Martin I found myself at the door of Mr. Pulitzer's villa. I was received by the major-domo, ushered into the drawing-room, and informed that Mr. Pulitzer would be down in a few minutes.
MEETING JOSEPH PULITZER
Before I had time to examine my surroundings Mr. Pulitzer entered the room on the arm of the major-domo. My first swift impression was of a very tall man with broad shoulders, the rest of the body tapering away to thinness, with a noble head, bushy reddish beard streaked with gray, black hair, swept back from the forehead and lightly touched here and there with silvery white. One eye was dull and half closed, the other was of a deep, brilliant blue which, so far from suggesting blindness, created the instant effect of a searching, eagle-like glance. The outstretched hand was large, strong, nervous, full of character, ending in well-shaped and immaculately kept nails.
A high-pitched voice, clear, penetrating, and vibrant, gave out the strange challenge: "Well, here you see before you the miserable wreck who is to be your host; you must make the best you can of him. Give me your arm into dinner."
I may complete here a description of Mr. Pulitzer's appearance, founded upon months of close personal association with him. The head was splendidly modeled, the forehead high, the brows prominent and arched; the ears were large, the nose was long and hooked; the mouth, almost concealed by the mustache, was firm and thin-lipped; the jaws showed square and powerful under the beard; the length of the face was much emphasized by the flowing beard and by the way in which the hair was brushed back from the forehead. The skin was of a clear, healthy pink, like a young girl's; but in moments of intense excitement the color would deepen to a dark, ruddy flush, and after a succession of sleepless nights, or under the strain of continued worry, it would turn a dull, lifeless gray.
I have never seen a face which varied so much in expression. Not only was there a marked difference at all times between one side and the other, due partly to the contrast between the two eyes and partly to a loss of flexibility in the muscles of the right side, but almost from moment to moment the general appearance of the face moved between a lively, genial animation, a cruel and wolf-like scowl, and a heavy and hopeless dejection. No face was capable of showing greater tenderness; none could assume a more forbidding expression of anger and contempt.
The Sargent portrait, a masterpiece of vivid character-painting, is a remarkable revelation of the complex nature of its subject. It discloses the deep affection, the keen intelligence, the wide sympathy, the tireless energy, the delicate sensitiveness, the tearing impatience, the cold tyranny, and the flaming scorn by which his character was so erratically dominated. It is a noble and pathetic monument to the suffering which had been imposed for a quarter of a century upon the intense and arbitrary spirit of this extraordinary man.
The account which I am to give of Mr. Pulitzer's daily life during the months immediately preceding his death would be unintelligible to all but the very few who knew him in recent years if it were not prefaced by a brief biographical note.
Joseph Pulitzer was born in the village of Mako, near Buda Pesth in Hungary, on April 10, 1847. His father was a Jew, his mother a Christian. At the age of sixteen he emigrated to the United States. He landed without friends, without money, unable to speak a word of English. He enlisted immediately in the First New York (Lincoln) Cavalry Regiment, a regiment chiefly composed of Germans and in which German was the prevailing tongue.
Within a year the Civil War ended, and Pulitzer found himself, in common with hundreds of thousands of others, out of employment at a time when employment was most difficult to secure. At this time he was so poor that he was turned away from French's Hotel for lack of fifty cents with which to pay for his bed. In less than twenty years he bought French's Hotel, pulled it down, and erected in its place the Pulitzer Building, at that time one of the largest business buildings in New York, where he housed The World.
What lay between these two events may be summed up in a few words. At the close of the Civil War Mr. Pulitzer went to St. Louis, and in 1868, after being engaged in various occupations, he became a reporter on the Westliche Post. In less than ten years he was editor and part proprietor. His amazing energy, his passionate interest in politics, his rare gift of terse and forcible expression, and his striking personality carried him over or through all obstacles.
After he had purchased the St. Louis Dispatch, amalgamated it with the Post, and made the Post-Dispatch a profitable business enterprise and a power to be reckoned with in politics, he felt the need of a wider field in which to maneuver the forces of his character and his intellect.
He came to New York in 1883 and purchased The World from Jay Gould. At that time The World had a circulation of less than twelve thousand copies a day, and was practically bankrupt. From this time forward Mr. Pulitzer concentrated his every faculty on building up The World. He was scoffed at, ridiculed, and abused by the most powerful editors of the old school. They were to learn, not without bitterness and wounds, that opposition was the one fuel of all others which best fed the triple flame of his courage, his tenacity, and his resourcefulness.
Four years of unremitting toil produced two results. The World reached a circulation of two hundred thousand copies a day and took its place in the front rank of the American press as a journal of force and ability, and Joseph Pulitzer left New York, a complete nervous wreck, to face in solitude the knowledge that he would never read print again and that within a few years he would be totally blind.
Joseph Pulitzer, as I knew him twenty-four years after he had been driven from active life by the sudden and final collapse of his health, was a man who could be judged by no common standards, for his feelings, his temper, and his point of view had been warped by years of suffering.
Had his spirit been broken by his trials, had his intellectual power weakened under the load of his affliction, had his burning interest in affairs cooled to a point where he could have been content to turn his back upon life's conflict, he might have found some happiness, or at least some measure of repose akin to that with which age consoles us for the loss of youth. But his greatest misfortune was that all the active forces of his personality survived to the last in their full vigor, inflicting upon him the curse of an impatience which nothing could appease, of a discontent which knew no amelioration.
My first meeting with Mr. Pulitzer is indelibly fixed in my memory. As we entered the dining-room the butler motioned to me to take a seat on Mr. Pulitzer's right hand, and as I did so I glanced up and down the table to find myself in the presence of half-a-dozen gentlemen in evening dress, who bowed in a very friendly manner as Mr. Pulitzer said, with a broad sweep of his hand, "Gentlemen, this is Mr. Alleyne Ireland; you will be able to inform him later of my fads and crotchets; well, don't be ungenerous with me, don't paint the devil as black as he is."
This was spoken in a tone of banter, and was cut short by a curious, prolonged chuckle, which differed from laughter in the feeling it produced in the hearer that the mirth did not spring from the open, obvious humor of the situation, but from some whimsical thought which was the more relished because its nature was concealed from us. I felt that, instead of my host's amusement having been produced by his peculiar introduction, he had made his eccentric address merely as an excuse to chuckle over some notion which had formed itself in his mind from material entirely foreign to his immediate surroundings.
I mention this because I found later that one of Mr. Pulitzer's most embarrassing peculiarities was the sudden revelation from time to time of a mental state entirely at odds with the occupation of the moment. In the middle of an account of a play, when I was doing my best to reproduce some scene from memory, with appropriate changes of voice to represent the different characters, Mr. Pulitzer would suddenly break in, "Did we ever get a reply to that letter about Laurier's speech on reciprocity? No? Well, all right, go on, go on."
Or it might be when I was reading from the daily papers an account of a murder or a railroad wreck that Mr. Pulitzer would break out into a peal of his peculiar chuckling laughter. I would immediately stop reading, when he would pat me on the arm, and say, "Go on, boy, go on, don't mind me. I wasn't laughing at you. I was thinking of something else. What was it? Oh, a railroad wreck, well, don't stop, go on reading."
As soon as we were seated Mr. Pulitzer turned to me and began to question me about my reading. Had I read any recent fiction? No? Well, what had I read within the past month?
I named several books which I had been re-reading—Macaulay's Essays, Meredith Townsend's Asia and Europe, and Lowes Dickinson's Modern Symposium.
"Well, tell me something about Asia and Europe" he said.
I left my dinner untasted, and for a quarter of an hour held forth on the life of Mohammed, on the courage of the Arabians, on the charm of Asia for Asiatics, and on other matters taken from Mr. Townsend's fascinating book. Suddenly Mr. Pulitzer interrupted me.
"My God! You don't mean to tell me that anyone is interested in that sort of rubbish. Everybody knows about Mohammed, and about the bravery of the Arabs, and, for God's sake, why shouldn't Asia be attractive to the Asiatics! Try something else. Do you remember any plays?"
Yes, I remembered several pretty well. Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra for instance.
"Go on, then, try and tell me about that."
My prospects of getting any dinner faded away as I began my new effort. Fortunately I knew the play very well, and remembered a number of passages almost word for word. I soon saw that Mr. Pulitzer was interested and pleased, not with the play as anything new to him, for he probably knew it better than I did, but with my presentation of it, because it showed some ability to compress narrative without destroying its character and also gave some proof of a good memory.
When I reached the scene in which Caesar replies to Britannus's protest against the recognition of Cleopatra's marriage to her brother, Ptolemy, by saying, "Pardon him, Theodotus; he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe are the laws of nature," Mr. Pulitzer burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.
I was about to continue, and try to make good better, when Mr. Pulitzer raised his hands above his head in remonstrance.
"Stop! Stop! For God's sake! You're hurting me," very much as a person with a cracked lip begs for mercy when you are in the middle of your most humorous story.
I found out later that, in order to keep in Mr. Pulitzer's good graces, it was as necessary to avoid being too funny as it was to avoid being too dull, for, while the latter fault hurt his intellectual sensitiveness, the former involved, through the excessive laughter it produced, a degree of involuntary exertion which, in his disordered physical condition, caused him acute pain.
Mr. Pulitzer's constant use of the exclamations "My God!" and "For God's sake!" had no relation whatever to swearing, as the term is usually understood; they were employed exactly as a French lady employs the exclamation Mon Dieu! or a German the expression Ach, du liebe Gott! As a matter of fact, although Mr. Pulitzer was a man of strong and, at times, violent emotions, and, from his deplorable nervous state, excessively irritable, I do not think that in the eight months I was with him, during the greater part of which time he was not under any restraining influence, such as might be exerted by the presence of ladies, I heard him use any oath except occasionally a "damn," which appealed to him, I think, as a suitable if not a necessary qualification of the word "fool." For Mr. Pulitzer there were no fools except damned fools.
After the excitement about Caesar and Cleopatra had subsided, Mr. Pulitzer asked me if I had a good memory. I hesitated before replying, because I had seen enough of Mr. Pulitzer in an hour to realize that a constant exercise of caution would be necessary if I wished to avoid offending his prejudices or wounding his susceptibilities; and whereas on the one hand I did not wish to set a standard for myself which I would find it impossible to live up to, on the other hand I was anxious to avoid giving any description of my abilities which would be followed later by a polite intimation from the major-domo that Mr. Pulitzer had enjoyed my visit immensely but that I was not just the man for the place.
So I compromised and said that I had a fairly good memory.
"Well, everybody thinks he's got a good memory," replied Mr. Pulitzer.
"I only claimed a fairly good one," I protested.
"Oh! that's just an affectation; as a matter of fact you think you've got a splendid memory, don't you? Now, be frank about it; I love people to be frank with me."
My valor got the better of my discretion, and I replied that if he really wished me to be frank I was willing to admit that I had no particular desire to lay claim to a good memory, for I was inclined to accept the view which I had once heard expressed by a very wise man of my acquaintance that the human mind was not intended to remember with but to think with, and that one of the greatest benefits which had been conferred on mankind by the discovery of printing was that thousands of things could be recorded for reference which former generations had been compelled to learn by rote.
"Your wise friend," he cried, "was a damned fool! If you will give the matter a moment's thought you'll see that memory is the highest faculty of the human mind. What becomes of all your reading, all your observation, your experience, study, investigations, discussions—in a rushing crescendo—if you have no memory?"
"I might reply," I said, "by asking what use it is to lumber up your mind with a mass of information of which you are only going to make an occasional use when you can have it filed away in encyclopedias and other works of reference, and in card indexes, instantly available when you want it."
I spoke in a light and rather humorous tone in order to take the edge off my dissent from his opinion, reflecting that even between friends and equals a demand for frankness is most safely to be regarded as a danger signal to impulsiveness; but it was too late, I had evidently overstepped the mark, for Mr. Pulitzer turned abruptly from me without replying, and began to talk to the gentleman on his left.
This had the twofold advantage of giving me time to reconsider my strategy, and to eat some dinner, which one of the footmen, evidently the kind with a memory for former experiences, had set on one side and kept warm against the moment when I would be free to enjoy it.
As I ate I listened to the conversation. It made my heart sink. The gentleman to whom Mr. Pulitzer had transferred his attentions was a Scotchman, Mr. William Romaine Paterson. I discovered later that he was the nearest possible approach to a walking encyclopedia. His range of information was—well, I am tempted to say, infamous. He appeared to have an exhaustive knowledge of French, German, Italian, and English literature, of European history in its most complicated ramifications, and of general biography in such a measure that, in regard to people as well known as Goethe, Voltaire, Kossuth, Napoleon, Garibaldi, Bismarck, and a score of others, he could fix a precise day on which any event or conversation had taken place, and recall it in its minutest details.
It was not simply from the standpoint of my own ignorance that Paterson's store of knowledge assumed such vast proportions, for it was seldom opened except in the presence of Mr. Pulitzer, in whom were combined a tenacious memory, a profound acquaintance with the subjects which Paterson had taken for his province, an analytic mind, and a zest for contradiction. Everything Paterson said was immediately pounced upon by a vigorous, astute, and well-informed critic who derived peculiar satisfaction from the rare instances in which he could detect him in an inaccuracy.
The conversation between Mr. Pulitzer and Paterson, or, rather, Paterson's frequently interrupted monologue, lasted until we had all finished dinner, and the butler had lighted Mr. Pulitzer's cigar. In the middle of an eloquent passage from Paterson, Mr. Pulitzer rose, turned abruptly toward me, held out his hand, and said, "I'm very glad to have met you, Mr. Ireland; you have entertained me very much. Please come here to-morrow at eleven o'clock, and I'll take you out for a drive. Good-night." He took Paterson's arm and left the room.
The door, like all the doors in Mr. Pulitzer's various residences, shut automatically and silently; and after one of the secretaries had drawn a heavy velvet curtain across the doorway, so that not the faintest sound could escape from the room, I was chaffed good-naturedly about my debut as a candidate. To my great surprise I was congratulated on having done very well.
"You made a great hit," said one, "with your account of Shaw's play."
"I nearly burst out laughing," said another, "when you gave your views about memory. I think you're dead right about it; but J. P.—Mr. Pulitzer was always referred to as J. P.—is crazy about people having good memories, so if you've really got a good memory you'd better let him find it out."
I was told that, so far as we were concerned, the day's work, or at least that portion of it which involved being with J. P., was to be considered over as soon as he retired to the library after dinner. His object then was to be left alone with one secretary, who read to him until about ten o'clock, when the major-domo came and took him to his rooms for the night. As a rule, J. P. made no further demand on the bodily presence of his secretaries after he had gone to bed, but occasionally, when he could not sleep, one of them would be called, perhaps at three in the morning, to read to him.
This meant in practice that, when we were ashore, one, or more usually two of us, would remain in the house in case of emergency. This did not by any means imply that we were always free from work after ten o'clock at night, in fact the very opposite was true, for it was J. P.'s custom to say, during dinner, that on the following day he would ride, drive, or walk with such a one or such a one, naming him; and the victim—a term frequently used with a good deal of surprisingly frank enjoyment by J. P. himself—had often to work well into the night preparing material for conversation.
I saw something of what this preparation meant before I left the villa after my first meeting with J. P. Two of the secretaries said they would go over to Monte Carlo, and they asked me to go with them; but I declined, preferring to remain behind for a chat with one of the secretaries, Mr. Norman G. Thwaites, an Englishman, who was secretary in a more technical sense than any of the rest of us, for he was a shorthand writer and did most of J. P.'s correspondence.
After the others had gone he showed me a table in the entrance hall of the villa, on which was a big pile of mail just arrived from London. It included a great number of newspapers and weeklies, several copies of each. There were The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Morning Post, The Daily News, The Westminster Gazette, Truth, The Spectator, The Saturday Review, The Nation, The Outlook, and some other London publications, as well as the Paris editions of the New York Herald and The Daily Mail.
Thwaites selected a copy of each and then led the way to his bedroom, a large room on the top floor, from which we could see across the bay the brilliant lights of Monte Carlo.
He then explained to me that he had been selected to read to J. P. whilst the latter had his breakfast and his after-breakfast cigar the next morning. In order to do this satisfactorily he had to go over the papers and read carefully whatever he could find that was suited to J. P.'s taste at that particular time of the day. During the breakfast hour J. P. would not have anything read to him which was of an exciting nature. This preference excluded political news, crime, disaster, and war correspondence, and left practically nothing but book reviews, criticisms of plays, operas, and art exhibitions, and publishers' announcements.
The principal sources of information on these topics were the literary supplement of the London Times, the Literary Digest, and the literary, dramatic, and musical columns of the Athenaeum, The Spectator, and the Saturday Review.
These had to be "prepared," to use J. P.'s phrase, which meant that they were read over rapidly once and then gone over again with some concentration so that the more important articles could be marked for actual reading, the other portions being dealt with conversationally, everything being boiled down to its essence before it reached Mr. Pulitzer's ear.
As it was getting late, and as I knew that Thwaites would be on tap early in the morning, for J. P. usually breakfasted before nine, and the "victim" was supposed to have had his own breakfast by eight, I left the villa and went back to the yacht.
As he said good-night, Thwaites gave me a copy of The Daily Telegraph and advised me to read it carefully, as J. P. might ask me for the day's news during the drive we were to take the following morning.
Before going to sleep I glanced through The Daily Telegraph and came across an article which gave me an idea for establishing my reputation for memory. It was a note about the death duties which had been collected in England during 1910, and it gave a list of about twenty estates on which large sums had been paid. The list included the names of the deceased and also the amounts on which probate duty had been paid. I decided to commit these names and figures to memory and to take an occasion the next day to reel them off to J. P.
Punctually at eleven o'clock I presented myself at the villa to find, to my dismay, J. P. seated in his automobile in a towering rage. What sort of consideration had I for him to keep him waiting for half an hour!
I protested that eleven o'clock was the hour of the appointment. I was absolutely wrong, he said, half-past-ten was the time, and he remembered perfectly naming that hour, because he wanted a long drive and he had an engagement with Mr. Paterson at noon.
"I'm awfully sorry," I began, "if I misunderstood you, but really..."
He dismissed the matter abruptly by saying, "For God's sake, don't argue about it. Get in and sit next to me so that I can hear you talk."
As soon as we had got clear of the village, and were spinning along at a good rate on the Corniche road, which circles the Bay of Monaco, high on the mountain side, Mr. Pulitzer began to put me through my paces.
"Now, Mr. Ireland," he began, "you will understand that if any arrangement is to be concluded between us I must explore your brain, your character, your tastes, your sympathies, your prejudices, your temper; I must find out if you have tact, patience, a sense of humor, the gift of condensing information, and, above all, a respect, a love, a passion for accuracy."
I began to speak, but he interrupted me before I had got six words out of my mouth.
"Wait! Wait!" he cried, "let me finish what I have to say. You'll find this business of being a candidate a very trying and disagreeable one; well, it's damned disagreeable to me, too. What I need is rest, repose, quiet, routine, understanding, sympathy, friendship, yes, my God! the friendship of those around me. Mr. Ireland, I can do much, I can do everything for a man who will be my friend. I can give him power, I can give him wealth, I can give him reputation, the power, the wealth, the reputation which come to a man who speaks to a million people a day in the columns of a great paper. But how am I to do this? I am blind, I'm an invalid; how am I to know whom I can trust? I don't mean in money matters; money's nothing to me; it can do nothing for me; I mean morally, intellectually. I've had scores of people pass through my hands in the last fifteen years—Englishmen, Scotchmen, Irishmen, Welshmen, Germans, Frenchmen, Americans, men of so-called high family, men of humble birth, men from a dozen universities, self-taught men, young men, old men, and, my God! what have I found? Arrogance, stupidity, ingratitude, loose thinking, conceit, ignorance, laziness, indifference; absence of tact, discretion, courtesy, manners, consideration, sympathy, devotion; no knowledge, no wisdom, no intelligence, no observation, no memory, no insight, no understanding. My God! I can hardly believe my own experience when I think of it."
Set down in cold print, this outburst loses almost every trace of its intensely dramatic character. Mr. Pulitzer spoke as though he were declaiming a part in a highly emotional play. At times he turned toward me, his clenched fists raised above his shoulders, at times he threw back his head, flung his outstretched hands at arms' length in front of him, as though he were appealing to the earth, to the sea, to the air, to the remote canopy of the sky to hear his denunciation of man's inefficiency; at times he paused, laid a hand on my arm, and fixed his eye upon me as if he expected the darkness to yield him some image of my thought. It was almost impossible to believe at such a moment that he was totally blind, that he could not distinguish night from day.
"Mind!" he continued, raising a cautionary finger, "I'm not making any criticism of my present staff; you may consider yourself very lucky if I find you to have a quarter of the good qualities which any one of them has; and let me tell you that while you are with me you will do well to observe these gentlemen and to try and model yourself on them.
"However, all that doesn't matter so much in your case, because there's no question of your becoming one of my personal staff. I haven't any vacancy at present, and I don't foresee any. What I want you for is something quite different."
Imagine my amazement. No vacancy on the staff! What about the advertisement I had answered? What about all the interviews and correspondence, in which a companionship had been the only thing discussed? What could the totally different thing be of which Mr. Pulitzer spoke?
In the midst of my confusion Mr. Pulitzer said, "Look out of the window and tell me what you see. Remember that I am blind, and try and make me get a mental picture of everything—everything, you understand; never think that anything is too small or insignificant to be of interest to me; you can't tell what may interest me; always describe everything with the greatest minuteness, every cloud in the sky, every shadow on the hillside, every tree, every house, every dress, every wrinkle on a face, everything, everything!"
I did my best, and he appeared to be pleased; but before I had half exhausted the details of the magnificent scene above and below us he stopped me suddenly with a request that I should tell him exactly what had occurred from the time I had answered his advertisement up to the moment of my arrival at the villa.
This demand placed me in rather an awkward predicament, for I had to try and reconcile the fact that the advertisement itself as well as all my conversations with his agents and with his son had been directed toward the idea of a companionship, with his positive assertion that there was no vacancy on his personal staff and that he wanted me for another, and an undisclosed purpose. Here was a very clear opportunity for destroying my reputation, either for tact or for accuracy.
There was, of course, only one thing to do, and that was to tell him exactly what had taken place. This I did, and at the end of my recital he said, "It's simply amazing how anyone can get a matter tangled up the way you have. There was never a question of your becoming one of my companions. What I want is a man to go out to the Philippines and write a series of vigorous articles showing the bungle we've made of that business, and paving the way for an agitation in favor of giving the Islands their independence. There'll be a chance of getting that done if we elect a Democratic President in 1912."
"Well, sir," I replied, "if the bungle has been as bad as you think I certainly ought to be able to do the work to your satisfaction. I'm pretty familiar with the conditions of tropical life, I've written a good deal on the subject, I've been in the Philippines and have published a book and a number of articles about them, and, although I don't take as gloomy a view as you do about the administration out there, I found a good deal to criticize, and if I go out I can certainly describe the conditions as they are now, and your editorial writers can put my articles to whatever use they may wish."
"You're going too fast," he said, "and you're altogether too cock-sure of your abilities. You mustn't think that because you've written articles for the London Times you are competent to write for The World. It's a very different matter. The American people want something terse, forcible, picturesque, striking, something that will arrest their attention, enlist their sympathy, arouse their indignation, stimulate their imagination, convince their reason, awaken their conscience. Why should I accept you at your own estimate? You don't realize the responsibility I have in this matter. The World isn't like your Times, with its forty or fifty thousand educated readers. It's read by, well, say a million people a day; and it's my duty to see that they get the truth; but that's not enough, I've got to put it before them briefly so that they will read it, clearly so that they will understand it, forcibly so that they will appreciate it, picturesquely so that they will remember it, and, above all, accurately so that they may be wisely guided by its light. And you come to me, and before you've been here a day you ask me to entrust you with an important mission which concerns the integrity of my paper, the conscience of my readers, the policy of my country, no, my God! you're too cock-sure of yourself."
By this time Mr. Pulitzer had worked himself up into a state of painful excitement. His forehead was damp with perspiration, he clasped and unclasped his hands, his voice became louder and higher-pitched from moment to moment; but when he suddenly stopped speaking he calmed down instantly.
"You shouldn't let me talk so much," he said, without, however, suggesting any means by which I could stop him. "What time is it? Are we nearly home? Well, Mr. Ireland, I'll let you off for the afternoon; go and enjoy yourself and forget all about me." Then, as the auto drew up at the door of the villa, "Come up to dinner about seven and try to be amusing. You did very well last night. I hope you can keep it up. It's most important that anyone who is to live with me should have a sense of humor. I'd be glad to keep a man and pay him a handsome salary if he would make me laugh once a day. Well, good-by till to-night."
LIFE AT CAP MARTIN
There was no lack of humor in Mr. Pulitzer's suggestion that I should go and enjoy myself and forget him. I went down to the yacht, had lunch in solitary state, and then, selecting a comfortable chair in the smoking- room, settled down to think things over.
It soon became clear to me that J. P. was a man of a character so completely outside the range of my experience that any skill of judgment I might have acquired through contact with many men of many races would avail me little in my intercourse with him.
That he was arbitrary, self-centered, and exacting mattered little to me; it was a combination of qualities which rumor had led me to expect in him, and with which I had become familiar in my acquaintance with men of wide authority and outstanding ability. What disturbed me was that his blindness, his ill health, and his suffering had united to these traits an intense excitability and a morbid nervousness.
My first impulse was to attribute his capriciousness to a weakening of his brain power; but I could not reconcile this view with the vigor of his thought, with the clearness of his expression, with the amplitude of his knowledge, with the scope of his memory as they had been disclosed the previous night in his conversation with Paterson. No, the fact was that I had not found the key to his motives, the cipher running through the artificial confusion of his actions.
I could not foresee the issue of the adventure. In the meantime, however, the yacht was a comfortable home, the Cote d'Azur was a new field of observation, J. P. and his secretaries were extremely interesting, the honorarium was accumulating steadily, and in the background Barbados still slept in the sunshine, an emerald in a sapphire sea.
During the afternoon I had a visit from Jabez E. Dunningham, the major- domo. I pay tribute to him here as one of the most remarkable men I have ever met, an opinion which I formed after months of daily intercourse with him. He was an Englishman, and he had spent nearly twenty years with Mr. Pulitzer, traveling with him everywhere, hardly ever separated from him for more than a few hours, and he was more closely in his confidence than anyone outside the family.
He was capable and efficient in the highest degree. His duties ranged from those of a nurse to those of a diplomat. He produced, at a moment's notice, as a conjuror produces rabbits and goldfish, the latest hot- water bottle from a village pharmacy in Elba, special trains from haughty and reluctant officials of State railways, bales of newspapers mysteriously collected from clubs, hotels, or consulates in remote and microscopic ports, fruits and vegetables out of season, rooms, suites, floors of hotels at the height of the rush in the most crowded resorts, or a dozen cabins in a steamer.
He could open telegraph stations and post offices when they were closed to the native nobility, convert the eager curiosity of port officials into a trance-like indifference, or monopolize the services of a whole administration, if the comfort, convenience, or caprice of his master demanded it.
More than this; if, any of these things having been done, they should appear undesirable to Mr. Pulitzer, Dunningham could undo them with the same magician-like ease as had marked their achievement. A wave of Mr. Pulitzer's hand was translated into action by Dunningham, and the whole of his arrangements disappeared as completely as if they had never existed. The slate was wiped clean, ready in an instant to receive the new message from Mr. Pulitzer's will.
Dunningham had come to offer me advice. I must not be disturbed by the apparent eccentricity of Mr. Pulitzer's conduct; it was merely part of Mr. Pulitzer's fixed policy to make things as complicated and difficult as possible for a candidate. By adopting this plan he was able to discover very quickly whether there was any possibility that a new man would suit him. If the candidate showed impatience or bad temper he could be got rid of at once; if he showed tact and good humor he would graduate into another series of tests, and so on, step by step, until the period of his trying out was ended and he became one of the staff.
A man of my intelligence would, of course, appreciate the advantages of such a method, even from the standpoint of the candidate, for once a candidate had passed the testing stage he would find his relations with Mr. Pulitzer much pleasanter and his work less exacting, whereas if he found at the outset that the conditions were not pleasing to him he could retire without having wasted much time.
One thing I must bear in mind, namely, that each day which passed without Mr. Pulitzer having decided against a candidate increased the candidate's chances. If a man was to be rejected it was usually done inside of a week from his first appearance on the scene.
And, by the way, had I ever noticed how people were apt to think that blind people were deaf? A most curious thing; really nothing in it. Take Mr. Pulitzer, for example, so far from his being deaf he had the most exquisite sense of hearing, in fact he heard better when people spoke below rather than above their ordinary tone.
Thus, Dunningham, anxious, in his master's interest, to allay my nervousness, which reacted disagreeably on Mr. Pulitzer, and to make me lower my voice.
I went up to the villa during the afternoon to look at the house and, if possible, to have a talk with some of the secretaries.
The villa lay on the Western slope of Cap Martin, a few hundred yards from the Villa Cyrnos, occupied by the Empress Eugenie. Seen from the road there was nothing striking in its appearance, but seen from the other side it was delightful, recalling the drop scene of a theater. Situated on a steep slope, embowered in trees, its broad stone veranda overhung a series of ornamental terraces decorated with palms, flowers, statuary, and fountains; and where these ended a jumble of rocks and stunted pines fell away abruptly to the blue water of the bay.
The house was large and well designed, but very simple in its furniture and decorations. The upper rooms on the Western side commanded a superb view of the Bay of Monaco, and of the rugged hillsides above La Turbie, crowned with a vague outline of fortifications against the sky.
In a room at the top of the house I found one of the secretaries, an Englishman, Mr. George Craven, formerly in the Indian Civil Service in Rajputana. He was engaged in auditing the accounts of the yacht, but he readily fell in with my suggestion that we should take a stroll.
"Right-ho!" he said. "I'm sick of these beastly accounts. But we must find out what J. P.'s doing first."
It appeared that J. P. had motored over to Monte Carlo to hear a concert, and that he wasn't expected back for an hour or more. As we stopped in the entrance hall to get our hats I struck a match on the sole of my shoe, intending to light a cigarette.
"By Jove! Don't do that, for Heaven's sake," said Craven, "or there'll be a frightful row when J. P. comes in. He can't stand cigarette smoke, and he's got a sense of smell as keen as a setter's."
We went into the garden and followed a narrow path which led down to the waterside. We talked about J. P. As a matter of fact, J. P. was the principal topic of conversation whenever two of his secretaries found themselves together.
Craven, however, had only been with J. P. for a few weeks, having been one of the batch sifted out of the six hundred who had answered the Times advertisement. He was almost as much in the dark as I was in regard to the real J. P. that existed somewhere behind the mask which was always held out in front of every emotion, every thought, every intention.
The life was difficult, he found, and extremely laborious. When it suited his book J. P. could be one of the most fascinating and entertaining of men, but when it didn't, well, he wasn't. The truth was that you could never tell what he really thought at any moment; it made you feel as though you were blind and not he; you found yourself groping around all the time for a good lead and coming unexpectedly up against a stone wall.
"I've been with him a couple of months," he said, "and I haven't the slightest idea whether he thinks me a good sort or a silly ass, and I don't suppose I ever shall know. By Jove, there he is now!" as we heard the crunch of tires on the drive. "Excuse me if I make a run for it; he may want me any minute. See you later."
At dinner that night Mr. Pulitzer devoted his whole attention to laying bare the vast areas of ignorance on the map of my information. He carried me from country to country, from century to century, through history, art, literature, biography, economics, music, the drama, and current politics. Whenever he hit upon some small spot where my investigations had lingered and where my memory served me he left it immediately, with the remark, "Well, I don't care about that; that doesn't amount to anything, anyhow."
It was worse than useless to make any pretense of knowing things, for if you said you knew a play, for instance, J. P. would say, "Good! Now begin at the second scene of the third act, where the curtain rises on the two conspirators in the courtyard of the hotel; just carry it along from there"—and if you didn't know it thoroughly you were soon in difficulties.
His method was nicely adjusted to his needs, for he was concerned most of the time to get entertainment as well as information; and he was, therefore, amused by exposing your ignorance when he was not informed by uncovering your knowledge. Indeed, nothing put him in such good humor as to discover a cleft in your intellectual armor, provided that you really possessed some talent, faculty, or resource which was useful to him.
My dinner, considered as a dinner, was as great a failure as my conversation, considered as an exhibition of learning. I got no more than a hasty mouthful now and again, and got that only through a device often resorted to by the secretaries under such circumstances, but which seldom met with much success.
J. P. himself had to eat, and from time to time the butler, who always stood behind J. P.'s chair, and attended to him only, would take advantage of an instant's pause in the conversation to say, "Your fish is getting cold, sir."
This would divert J. P.'s attention from his victim long enough to allow one of the other men to break in with a remark designed to draw J. P.'s fire. It worked once in a while, but as a rule it had no effect whatever beyond making J. P. hurry through the course so that he could renew his attack at the point where he had suspended it.
On the particular occasion I am describing I was fortunate enough toward the end of dinner to regain some of the ground I had lost in my disorderly flight across the field of scholarship. One of the secretaries seized an opportunity to refer to the British death duties. I had intended to arrange for the introduction of this topic, but had forgotten to do so. It was just sheer good luck, and I made signs to the gentleman to keep it up. He did so, and the moment he ceased speaking I took up the tale. It was a good subject, for J. P. was interested in the question of death duties.
After a preliminary flourish I began to reel off the figures I had committed to memory the previous night. Before I had got very far Mr. Pulitzer cried.
"Stop! Are you reading those figures?"
"No," I replied. "I read them over last night in the Daily Telegraph."
"My God! Are you giving them from memory? Haven't you got a note of them in your hand? Hasn't he? Hasn't he? ..." appealing to the table.
Reassured on this point he said, "Well, go on, go on. This interests me."
As soon as I had finished he turned to Craven and said, "Go and get that paper, and find the article."
When Craven returned with it, he continued, "Now, Mr. Ireland, go over those figures again; and you, Mr. Craven, check them off and see if they're correct. Now, play fair, no tricks!"
I had made two mistakes, which were reported as soon as they were spoken. At the end Mr. Pulitzer said:
"Well, you see, you hadn't got them right, after all. But that's not so bad. With a memory like that you might have known something by now if you'd only had the diligence to read."
My second score was made just at the end of dinner, or rather when dinner had been finished some time and J. P. was lingering at table over his cigar. The question of humor came up, and someone remarked how curious it was that one of the favorite amusements of the American humorist should be to make fun of the Englishman for his lack of humor— "Laugh, and all the world laughs with you, except the Englishman," and so on. The usual defenses were made—Hood, Thackeray, Gilbert, Calverley, etc.—and then Punch was referred to.
This gave me the chance of repeating, more or less accurately, a paragraph which appeared in Punch some years ago, and which I always recite when that delightful periodical is slandered in my hearing. It ran something after this fashion:
"One of our esteemed contemporaries is very much worked up in its mind about Mr. Balfour's foreign policy, which it compares to that of the camel, which, when pursued, buries its head in the sand. We quite agree with our esteemed contemporary about Mr. Balfour's foreign policy, but we fear it is getting its metaphors mixed. Surely it is not thinking of the camel which, when pursued, buries its head in the sand, but of the ostrich which, when pursued, runs its eye through a needle."
It was a lucky hit. No one had heard it before, and our party broke up with Mr. Pulitzer in high good humor.
So the days passed. I saw a great deal of Mr. Pulitzer and went through many agonizing hours of cross-examination; but gradually matters came round to the point where we discussed the possibility of my becoming a member of his personal staff. He thought that there was some hope that, if he put me through a rigorous training, I might suit him, but before it could even be settled that such an attempt should be made many things would have to be cleared up.
In the first place, I would understand what extreme caution was necessary for him in making a selection. There was not only the question of whether I could make myself useful to him, and the question of whether I could be trusted in a relationship of such a confidential nature, there remained the very important question of whether I was a fit person to associate with the lady members of his family, who spent some portion of each year with him.
This matter was discussed very frankly, and was then shelved pending a reference to a number of people in England and America at whose homes I had been a guest, and where the household included ladies.
At the end of a week the yacht was sent to Marseilles to coal in preparation for a cruise, and I went to stay at an hotel near the villa. It was a change for the worse.
By the time the yacht returned I had had some opportunity of observing the routine of life at the villa. After breakfast Mr. Pulitzer went for a drive, accompanied by one, or occasionally by two, of the secretaries. During this drive he received a rough summary of the morning's news, the papers having been gone over and marked either the night before or while he was having his breakfast.
As he seldom let us know in advance which of us he would call upon for the first presentation of the news, and as he was liable to change his mind at the last minute when he had named somebody the previous night, we had all of us to go through the papers with great care, so that we might be prepared if we were called upon.
On returning from his drive Mr. Pulitzer would either sit in the library and dictate letters and cablegrams, or he would have the news gone over in detail, or, if the state of his health forbade the mental exertion involved in the intense concentration with which he absorbed what was read to him from the papers, he would go for a ride, accompanied by a groom and by one of the secretaries. When he went to Europe he usually sent over in advance some horses from his own stable, as he was very fond of riding and could not trust himself on a strange horse.
After the ride, lunch, at which the conversation generally took a more serious turn than at dinner, for at night Mr. Pulitzer disliked any discussion of matters which were likely to arouse his interest very much or to stir his emotions, for he found it difficult to get his mind calmed down so that he could sleep. Even in regard to lunch we were sometimes warned in advance, either by Dunningham or by the secretary who had left him just before lunch was served, that Mr. Pulitzer wished the conversation to be light and uncontroversial.
Immediately after lunch Mr. Pulitzer retired to his bedroom with Herr Friederich Mann, the German secretary, and was read to, chiefly German plays, until he fell asleep, or until he had had an hour or so of rest.
By four o'clock he was ready to go out again, riding, if he had not had a ride in the morning, or driving, with an occasional walk for perhaps half-an-hour, the automobile always remaining within call. As a rule he spent an hour before dinner listening to someone read, a novel, a biography, or what not, according to his mood.
At dinner the conversation usually ran along the lines of what was being read to him by the various secretaries or of such topics in the day's news as were of an unexciting nature. The meal varied greatly in length. If J. P. was feeling tired, or out of sorts, he eat his dinner quickly and left us, taking somebody along to read to him until he was ready to go to bed. But, if he was in good form, and an interesting topic was started, or if he was in a reminiscent mood and wanted to talk, dinner would last from half-past-seven to nine, or even later.
I shall deal in another place with the different phases of the conversation and reading which formed so large a part of our duties, but I may refer here to various incidents of our routine and to some things by which our routine was occasionally disturbed.
Mr. Pulitzer was very fond of walking. His usual practice was to leave the villa in the automobile and drive either down to the plage at Mentone or up the hill to a point about midway between Cap Martin and the Tower of Augustus. When he reached the spot he had selected he took the arm of a secretary and promenaded backward and forward over a distance of five hundred yards, until he felt tired, when the automobile was signaled and we drove home.
Each of his favorite spots for walking had its peculiar disadvantages for his companion. Speaking for myself I can say that I dreaded these walks more than any other of my duties.
If we went on the hillside I had to keep the most alert and unrelaxing lookout for automobiles. They came dashing round the sharp curves with a roar and a scream, and these distracting noises always made Mr. Pulitzer stop dead still as though he were rooted to the ground.
I understand that Mr. Pulitzer was never actually hit by an automobile, and, of course, his blindness saved him from the agony of apprehension which his companion suffered, for he could not see the narrowness of his escape. But I was out with him one day on the Upper Corniche road when two automobiles going in opposite directions at reckless speed came upon us at a sharp turn, and I may frankly confess that I was never so frightened in my life. Had we been alone I am certain we would have been killed, but fortunately Mann was with us, and it was on his arm that J. P. was leaning at the critical moment. Mann, who had the advantage of long experience, acted instantly with the utmost presence of mind. He made a quick sign to me to look out for myself, and then pushed Mr. Pulitzer almost off his feet up against the high cliff which rose above the inner edge of the road.
The machines were out of sight before we could realize that we were safe. I expected an explosion from J. P. Nothing of the kind! He acted then, as I always saw him act when there was any actual danger or real trouble of any kind, with perfect calmness and self-possession.
The intolerable nervous strain of these walks on the hillside was accompanied by a mental strain almost as distressing. It would have been bad enough if one's only responsibility had been to keep Mr. Pulitzer from being crushed against the hillside, or being run over; but this was only half the problem. The other half was to keep up a continual stream of conversation—not light, airy nothings, but a solid body of carefully prepared facts—in a tone of voice which should fail to convey to J. P. the slightest indication of your nervousness.
When we walked on the plage at Mentone, the difficulties were of another kind. Here there was always more or less of a crowd, and as the paved promenade was narrow, and as very few people had the intelligence to realize that the tall, striking figure leaning on his companion's arm was that of a blind man, and as fewer still had the courtesy to step aside if they did realize it, our walk was a constant dodging in and out among curious gazers interested in staring at the gaunt, impressive invalid with the large black spectacles.
Conversation was, of course, extremely difficult under such circumstances; and occasionally things were made worse by some stranger stopping squarely in front of us and addressing Mr. Pulitzer by name, for he was a notable personage in the place and was well known by sight.
When accosted in this manner, Mr. Pulitzer always showed signs of extreme nervousness. He would stamp his foot, raise the clenched fist of his disengaged arm menacingly, and cry, "My God! What's this? What's this? Tell him to go away. I won't tolerate this intrusion. Tell him I'll have him arrested."
More than once I had to push a man off the promenade and make faces at him embodying all that was possible by such means in the way of threats to do him bodily injury. It was impossible to argue with these impudent intruders, because anything like an altercation on a public road would have meant two or three days of misery for Mr. Pulitzer, in consequence of the excitement and apprehension he would suffer in such an affair. It was always with a feeling of intense relief that I saw J. P. safely back at the villa after our walks.
Although Mr. Pulitzer's intellectual interests covered almost every phase of human life, there was nothing from which he derived more pleasure than from music. Once, or perhaps twice a week, he motored over to Monte Carlo, or even as far as Nice, to attend a concert. On such occasions he always took at least two companions with him, so that he never sat next to a stranger.
He preferred a box for his party, but, failing that, the seats were always secured on the broad cross-aisle, so that he would not have to rise when anyone wished to pass in front of him. He liked to arrive a few minutes before the concert commenced, and one of us would read the program to him. He had an excellent memory for music, and his taste was broad enough to embrace almost everything good from Bach to Wagner. He was a keen critic of a performance, and in the intervals between the pieces he criticized the playing from the standpoint of his musical experience.
One movement was played too loud, another too fast; in one the brass had drowned a delightful passage for the violas, which he had heard and admired the year before in Vienna; in another the brasses had been subdued to a point where the theme lost its distinction.
It was his habit to beat time with one hand and to sway his head gently backward and forward when he heard a slow, familiar melody. When something very stirring was played, the Rakoczy March, for instance, or the overture to Die Meistersinger, he would mark the down beat with his clenched fist, and throw his head back as if he were going to shout.
I was tempted at first to believe that, in the concert room, when one of his favorite pieces was being played, and his hand rose and fell in exact accord with the conductor's baton, or when, with his head in the air and his mouth half open, he thumped his knee at the beginning of each bar, he was absorbed in the music to the exclusion of all his worries, perplexities, and suffering.
But, after he had once or twice turned to me in a flash as the last note of a symphony lingered before the outburst of applause and asked, "Did you remember to tell Dunningham to have dinner served a quarter of an hour later this evening?" or "Did Thwaites say anything to you about when he expected those cables from New York?"—I learned that even at such times J. P. never lost the thread of his existence, never freed himself from the slavery of his affairs.
Twice during the ten days immediately preceding our long promised cruise in the Mediterranean we made short trips on the yacht. We went to bed some nights with all our plans apparently settled for a week ahead. At eight o'clock the next morning Dunningham would bring J. P. down to breakfast and then announce that everybody was to be on board the yacht by midday, as J. P. had slept badly and felt the need of sea air and the complete quiet which could be had only on board the Liberty.
There would be a great packing of trunks, not only those devoted to the personal belongings of the staff, but trunks for newspaper files, encyclopedias, magazines, novels, histories, correspondence, and so on.
The chef and his assistants, the butler and his assistants, the major domo, and the secretaries would leave the villa in a string of carriages, followed by cartloads of baggage, and install themselves on the yacht.
Or the cause of our sudden departure might be that Mr. Pulitzer was feeling nervous and out of sorts and was expecting important letters or cables which were sure to excite him and make him worse. On such occasions Dunningham, who was one of the few people who had any influence whatever over Mr. Pulitzer, would urge an instant flight on the yacht as the only means of safeguarding J. P.'s health. He knew that if we stayed ashore no power on earth could prevent Mr. Pulitzer from reading his cables and letters when they arrived. Once out at sea we were completely cut off from communication with the shore, for we had no wireless apparatus, and Mr. Pulitzer would settle down and get some rest.
More than once, however, I saw all the preparations made for a short cruise, everybody on board, the captain on the bridge, the table laid for lunch, a man stationed at the stem to report the automobile as soon as it came in sight, and at the last moment a messenger arrive countermanding everything and ordering everybody back to the villa as fast as they could go.
These sudden changes were sometimes reversed. We would arrive at Mentone in the morning. J. P. would announce his intention of spending a week there. With this apparently settled, J. P. goes ashore for a ride, the procession makes its way to the villa, the trunks are unpacked, the chef begins to ply his art, the captain of the yacht goes ahead with such washing down and painting as are needed, the chief engineer seizes the chance of making some small engine-room repairs—no ordinary ship's work of any kind was allowed when J. P. was on board, the slightest noise or the faintest odor of paint being strictly forbidden—and later in the day the news comes that Mr. Pulitzer will be aboard again in two hours and will expect everything to be ready to make an immediate start.
These short cruises might last only for a night, or they might extend to a day or two, Our custom was to steam straight out to sea and then patrol the coast backward and forward between Bordighera and Cannes, without losing sight of land.
The life at Cap Martin was sufficiently arduous, even for those who had after long experience with J. P. learned to get through the day with some economy of effort. To me, new to the work, constantly under the double pressure of Mr. Pulitzer's cross-examinations and of the task of supplying, however inefficiently, the place of a secretary who was away on sick leave, the whole thing was a nightmare. I was in a dazed condition; everything impressed itself upon me with the vividness of a dream, and eluded my attempts at analysis, just as the delusive order of our sleeping visions breaks up into topsyturvydom as soon as we try to reconstruct it in the light of day.
I spent in all about a month at Cap Martin, staying sometimes on the yacht and sometimes at an hotel, and during that time I worked practically every day from eight in the morning until ten or eleven at night. I use the word "work" to include the hours spent with Mr. Pulitzer as well as those devoted to preparing material for him. Indeed, the time given to meals and to drives and walks with J. P. was much more exhausting than that spent in reading and in making notes.
The only recreation I had during this period was one day on leave at Nice and half a day at Monaco; but there was very little enjoyment to be got out of these visits, because I was under orders to bring back minute descriptions of Nice and of the Institute of Marine Biology at Monaco.
Engaged on such missions, the passers-by, the houses, the shops, the fishes and marine vegetables in their tanks, the blue sky overhead, the blue sea at my feet assumed a new aspect to me. They were no longer parts of my own observation, to be remembered or forgotten as chance determined, they belonged to some one else, to the blind man in whose service I was pledged to a vicarious absorption of "material."
I found myself counting the black spots on a fish's back, the steps leading up to Monaco on its hill, the number of men and women in the Grand Salon at Monte Carlo, of men with mustaches, of clean-shaven men, of men with beards in the restaurants, of vessels in sight from the terrace, of everything, in fact, which seemed capable of furnishing a sentence or of starting up a discussion.
Once or twice I ran over late at night to Monte Carlo, and occasionally Thwaites and I met after ten o'clock at the Casino of Mentone to play bowls or try our luck at the tables; but the spirit of J. P. never failed to attend upon these dismal efforts at amusement. If I heard an epigram, witnessed an interesting incident, or observed any curious sight, out came my note book and pencil and the matter was dedicated to the service of the morrow's duties.
Finally, after several false starts, we all found ourselves on the yacht with the prospect of spending most of our time aboard until Mr. Pulitzer sailed for his annual visit to America.
YACHTING IN THE MEDITERRANEAN
Taken at its face value a month in the Mediterranean, on board one of the finest yachts afloat, with visits to Corsica, Elba, Nice, Cannes, Naples, Genoa, Syracuse, and the Pirams, should give promise of a picturesque and entertaining record of sight-seeing, the kind of journal in which the views of Baedeker and of your local cab driver are blended, in order that the aroma of foreign travel may be wafted to the nostrils of your fresh-water cousins.