Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne
Part 1 out of 8
This etext was prepared by Tony Adam, Prairie View, TX.
IN THE MARQUESAS.
It was about three o'clock of a winter's afternoon in
Tai-o-hae, the French capital and port of entry of the
Marquesas Islands. The trades blew strong and squally;
the surf roared loud on the shingle beach; and the fifty-ton
schooner of war, that carries the flag and influence of
France about the islands of the cannibal group, rolled at
her moorings under Prison Hill. The clouds hung low and
black on the surrounding amphitheatre of mountains; rain
had fallen earlier in the day, real tropic rain, a waterspout
for violence; and the green and gloomy brow of the mountain
was still seamed with many silver threads of torrent.
In these hot and healthy islands winter is but a name. The
rain had not refreshed, nor could the wind invigorate, the
dwellers of Tai-o-hae: away at one end, indeed, the
commandant was directing some changes in the residency
garden beyond Prison Hill; and the gardeners, being all
convicts, had no choice but to continue to obey. All other folks
slumbered and took their rest: Vaekehu, the native queen, in
her trim house under the rustling palms; the Tahitian
commissary, in his beflagged official residence; the merchants,
in their deserted stores; and even the club-servant in the club,
his head fallen forward on the bottle-counter, under the map of
the world and the cards of navy officers. In the whole length of
the single shoreside street, with its scattered board houses
looking to the sea, its grateful shade of palms and green jungle
of puraos, no moving figure could be seen. Only, at the end of
the rickety pier, that once (in the prosperous days of the
American rebellion) was used to groan under the cotton of John
Hart, there might have been spied upon a pile of lumber the
famous tattooed white man, the living curiosity of Tai-o-hae.
His eyes were open, staring down the bay. He saw the
mountains droop, as they approached the entrance, and break
down in cliffs; the surf boil white round the two sentinel islets;
and between, on the narrow bight of blue horizon, Ua-pu
upraise the ghost of her pinnacled mountain tops. But his mind
would take no account of these familiar features; as he dodged
in and out along the frontier line of sleep and waking, memory
would serve him with broken fragments of the past: brown
faces and white, of skipper and shipmate, king and chief,
would arise before his mind and vanish; he would recall old
voyages, old landfalls in the hour of dawn; he would hear again
the drums beat for a man-eating festival; perhaps he would
summon up the form of that island princess for the love of
whom he had submitted his body to the cruel hands of the
tattooer, and now sat on the lumber, at the pier-end of
Tai-o-hae, so strange a figure of a European. Or perhaps from
yet further back, sounds and scents of England and his
childhood might assail him: the merry clamour of cathedral
bells, the broom upon the foreland, the song of the river on the
It is bold water at the mouth of the bay; you can steer a ship
about either sentinel, close enough to toss a biscuit on the
rocks. Thus it chanced that, as the tattooed man sat dozing and
dreaming, he was startled into wakefulness and animation by
the appearance of a flying jib beyond the western islet. Two
more headsails followed; and before the tattooed man had
scrambled to his feet, a topsail schooner, of some hundred tons,
had luffed about the sentinel and was standing up the bay,
The sleeping city awakened by enchantment. Natives appeared
upon all sides, hailing each other with the magic cry "Ehippy"
--ship; the Queen stepped forth on her verandah, shading her
eyes under a hand that was a miracle of the fine art of tattooing;
the commandant broke from his domestic convicts and ran into
the residency for his glass; the harbour master, who was also
the gaoler, came speeding down the Prison Hill; the seventeen
brown Kanakas and the French boatswain's mate, that make up
the complement of the war-schooner, crowded on the forward
deck; and the various English, Americans, Germans, Poles,
Corsicans, and Scots--the merchants and the clerks of
Tai-o-hae--deserted their places of business, and gathered,
according to invariable custom, on the road before the club.
So quickly did these dozen whites collect, so short are the
distances in Tai-o-hae, that they were already exchanging
guesses as to the nationality and business of the strange vessel,
before she had gone about upon her second board towards the
anchorage. A moment after, English colours were broken out
at the main truck.
"I told you she was a Johnny Bull--knew it by her headsails,"
said an evergreen old salt, still qualified (if he could anywhere
have found an owner unacquainted with his story) to adorn
another quarter-deck and lose another ship.
"She has American lines, anyway," said the astute Scots
engineer of the gin-mill; "it's my belief she's a yacht."
"That's it," said the old salt, "a yacht! look at her davits, and the
boat over the stern."
"A yacht in your eye!" said a Glasgow voice. "Look at her red
ensign! A yacht! not much she isn't!"
"You can close the store, anyway, Tom," observed a
gentlemanly German. "Bon jour, mon Prince!" he added, as a
dark, intelligent native cantered by on a neat chestnut. "Vous
allez boire un verre de biere?"
But Prince Stanilas Moanatini, the only reasonably busy human
creature on the island, was riding hot-spur to view this
morning's landslip on the mountain road: the sun already
visibly declined; night was imminent; and if he would avoid
the perils of darkness and precipice, and the fear of the dead,
the haunters of the jungle, he must for once decline a hospitable
invitation. Even had he been minded to alight, it presently
appeared there would be difficulty as to the refreshment
"Beer!" cried the Glasgow voice. "No such a thing; I tell you
there's only eight bottles in the club! Here's the first time I've
seen British colours in this port! and the man that sails under
them has got to drink that beer."
The proposal struck the public mind as fair, though far from
cheering; for some time back, indeed, the very name of beer
had been a sound of sorrow in the club, and the evenings had
passed in dolorous computation.
"Here is Havens," said one, as if welcoming a fresh topic.
"What do you think of her, Havens?"
"I don't think," replied Havens, a tall, bland, cool-looking,
leisurely Englishman, attired in spotless duck, and deliberately
dealing with a cigarette. "I may say I know. She's consigned
to me from Auckland by Donald & Edenborough. I am on my
"What ship is she?" asked the ancient mariner.
"Haven't an idea," returned Havens. "Some tramp they have
With that he placidly resumed his walk, and was soon seated in
the stern-sheets of a whaleboat manned by uproarious Kanakas,
himself daintily perched out of the way of the least maculation,
giving his commands in an unobtrusive, dinner-table tone of
voice, and sweeping neatly enough alongside the schooner.
A weather-beaten captain received him at the gangway.
"You are consigned to us, I think," said he. "I am Mr. Havens."
"That is right, sir," replied the captain, shaking hands. "You
will find the owner, Mr. Dodd, below. Mind the fresh paint on
Havens stepped along the alley-way, and descended the ladder
into the main cabin.
"Mr. Dodd, I believe," said he, addressing a smallish, bearded
gentleman, who sat writing at the table. "Why," he cried, "it
isn't Loudon Dodd?"
"Myself, my dear fellow," replied Mr. Dodd, springing to his
feet with companionable alacrity. "I had a half-hope it might
be you, when I found your name on the papers. Well, there's no
change in you; still the same placid, fresh-looking Britisher."
"I can't return the compliment; for you seem to have become a
Britisher yourself," said Havens.
"I promise you, I am quite unchanged," returned Dodd. "The
red tablecloth at the top of the stick is not my flag; it's my
partner's. He is not dead, but sleepeth. There he is," he added,
pointing to a bust which formed one of the numerous
unexpected ornaments of that unusual cabin.
Havens politely studied it. "A fine bust," said he; "and a very
"Yes; he's a good fellow," said Dodd. "He runs me now. It's
all his money."
"He doesn't seem to be particularly short of it," added the other,
peering with growing wonder round the cabin.
"His money, my taste," said Dodd. "The black-walnut
bookshelves are Old English; the books all mine,--mostly
Renaissance French. You should see how the beach-combers
wilt away when they go round them looking for a change of
Seaside Library novels. The mirrors are genuine Venice; that's
a good piece in the corner. The daubs are mine--and his; the
"Mudding? What is that?" asked Havens.
"These bronzes," replied Dodd. "I began life as a sculptor."
"Yes; I remember something about that," said the other. "I
think, too, you said you were interested in Californian real
"Surely, I never went so far as that," said Dodd. "Interested? I
guess not. Involved, perhaps. I was born an artist; I never took
an interest in anything but art. If I were to pile up this old
schooner to-morrow," he added, "I declare I believe I would try
the thing again!"
"Insured?" inquired Havens.
"Yes," responded Dodd. "There's some fool in 'Frisco who
insures us, and comes down like a wolf on the fold on the
profits; but we'll get even with him some day."
"Well, I suppose it's all right about the cargo," said Havens.
"O, I suppose so!" replied Dodd. "Shall we go into the
"We'll have all to-morrow, you know," said Havens; "and
they'll be rather expecting you at the club. C'est l'heure de
l'absinthe. Of course, Loudon, you'll dine with me later on?"
Mr. Dodd signified his acquiescence; drew on his white coat,
not without a trifling difficulty, for he was a man of middle age,
and well-to-do; arranged his beard and moustaches at one of
the Venetian mirrors; and, taking a broad felt hat, led the way
through the trade-room into the ship's waist.
The stern boat was waiting alongside,--a boat of an elegant
model, with cushions and polished hard-wood fittings.
"You steer," observed Loudon. "You know the best place to
"I never like to steer another man's boat," replied Havens.
"Call it my partner's, and cry quits," returned Loudon, getting
nonchalantly down the side.
Havens followed and took the yoke lines without further
protest. "I am sure I don't know how you make this pay," he
said. "To begin with, she is too big for the trade, to my taste;
and then you carry so much style."
"I don't know that she does pay," returned Loudon. "I never
pretend to be a business man. My partner appears happy; and
the money is all his, as I told you--I only bring the want of
"You rather like the berth, I suppose?" suggested Havens.
"Yes," said Loudon; "it seems odd, but I rather do."
While they were yet on board, the sun had dipped; the sunset
gun (a rifle) cracked from the war-schooner, and the colours
had been handed down. Dusk was deepening as they came
ashore; and the Cercle Internationale (as the club is officially
and significantly named) began to shine, from under its low
verandas, with the light of many lamps. The good hours of the
twenty-four drew on; the hateful, poisonous day-fly of
Nukahiva, was beginning to desist from its activity; the
land-breeze came in refreshing draughts; and the club men
gathered together for the hour of absinthe. To the commandant
himself, to the man whom he was then contending with at
billiards--a trader from the next island, honorary member of the
club, and once carpenter's mate on board a Yankee war-ship--
to the doctor of the port, to the Brigadier of Gendarmerie, to the
opium farmer, and to all the white men whom the tide of
commerce, or the chances of shipwreck and desertion, had
stranded on the beach of Tai-o-hae, Mr. Loudon Dodd was
formally presented; by all (since he was a man of pleasing
exterior, smooth ways, and an unexceptionable flow of talk,
whether in French or English) he was excellently well received;
and presently, with one of the last eight bottles of beer on a
table at his elbow, found himself the rather silent centre-piece
of a voluble group on the verandah.
Talk in the South Seas is all upon one pattern; it is a wide
ocean, indeed, but a narrow world: you shall never talk long
and not hear the name of Bully Hayes, a naval hero whose
exploits and deserved extinction left Europe cold; commerce
will be touched on, copra, shell, perhaps cotton or fungus; but
in a far-away, dilettante fashion, as by men not deeply
interested; through all, the names of schooners and their
captains, will keep coming and going, thick as may-flies; and
news of the last shipwreck will be placidly exchanged and
debated. To a stranger, this conversation will at first seem
scarcely brilliant; but he will soon catch the tone; and by the
time he shall have moved a year or so in the island world, and
come across a good number of the schooners so that every
captain's name calls up a figure in pyjamas or white duck, and
becomes used to a certain laxity of moral tone which prevails
(as in memory of Mr. Hayes) on smuggling, ship-scuttling,
barratry, piracy, the labour trade, and other kindred fields of
human activity, he will find Polynesia no less amusing and no
less instructive than Pall Mall or Paris.
Mr. Loudon Dodd, though he was new to the group of the
Marquesas, was already an old, salted trader; he knew the
ships and the captains; he had assisted, in other islands, at the
first steps of some career of which he now heard the
culmination, or (vice versa) he had brought with him from
further south the end of some story which had begun in
Tai-o-hae. Among other matter of interest, like other arrivals in
the South Seas, he had a wreck to announce. The John T.
Richards, it appeared, had met the fate of other island
"Dickinson piled her up on Palmerston Island," Dodd
"Who were the owners?" inquired one of the club men.
"O, the usual parties!" returned Loudon,--"Capsicum & Co."
A smile and a glance of intelligence went round the group; and
perhaps Loudon gave voice to the general sentiment by
remarking, "Talk of good business! I know nothing better than
a schooner, a competent captain, and a sound, reliable reef."
"Good business! There's no such a thing!" said the Glasgow
man. "Nobody makes anything but the missionaries--dash it!"
"I don't know," said another. "There's a good deal in opium."
"It's a good job to strike a tabooed pearl-island, say, about the
fourth year," remarked a third; "skim the whole lagoon on the
sly, and up stick and away before the French get wind of you."
"A pig nokket of cold is good," observed a German.
"There's something in wrecks, too," said Havens. "Look at that
man in Honolulu, and the ship that went ashore on Waikiki
Reef; it was blowing a kona, hard; and she began to break up
as soon as she touched. Lloyd's agent had her sold inside an
hour; and before dark, when she went to pieces in earnest, the
man that bought her had feathered his nest. Three more hours
of daylight, and he might have retired from business. As it
was, he built a house on Beretania Street, and called it for the
"Yes, there's something in wrecks sometimes," said the
Glasgow voice; "but not often."
"As a general rule, there's deuced little in anything," said
"Well, I believe that's a Christian fact," cried the other. "What
I want is a secret; get hold of a rich man by the right place, and
make him squeal."
"I suppose you know it's not thought to be the ticket," returned
"I don't care for that; it's good enough for me," cried the man
from Glasgow, stoutly. "The only devil of it is, a fellow can
never find a secret in a place like the South Seas: only in
London and Paris."
"M'Gibbon's been reading some dime-novel, I suppose," said
one club man.
"He's been reading _Aurora Floyd_," remarked another.
"And what if I have?" cried M'Gibbon. "It's all true. Look at
the newspapers! It's just your confounded ignorance that sets
you snickering. I tell you, it's as much a trade as underwriting,
and a dashed sight more honest."
The sudden acrimony of these remarks called Loudon (who
was a man of peace) from his reserve. "It's rather singular,"
said he, "but I seem to have practised about all these means of
"Tit you effer vind a nokket?" inquired the inarticulate German,
"No. I have been most kinds of fool in my time," returned
Loudon, "but not the gold-digging variety. Every man has a
sane spot somewhere."
"Well, then," suggested some one, "did you ever smuggle
"Yes, I did," said Loudon.
"Was there money in that?"
"All the way," responded Loudon.
"And perhaps you bought a wreck?" asked another.
"Yes, sir," said Loudon.
"How did that pan out?" pursued the questioner.
"Well, mine was a peculiar kind of wreck," replied Loudon. "I
don't know, on the whole, that I can recommend that branch of
"Did she break up?" asked some one.
"I guess it was rather I that broke down," says Loudon. "Head
not big enough."
"Ever try the blackmail?" inquired Havens.
"Simple as you see me sitting here!" responded Dodd.
"Well, I'm not a lucky man, you see," returned the stranger. "It
ought to have been good."
"You had a secret?" asked the Glasgow man.
"As big as the State of Texas."
"And the other man was rich?"
"He wasn't exactly Jay Gould, but I guess he could buy these
islands if he wanted."
"Why, what was wrong, then? Couldn't you get hands on him?"
"It took time, but I had him cornered at last; and then----"
"The speculation turned bottom up. I became the man's bosom
"The deuce you did!"
"He couldn't have been particular, you mean?" asked Dodd
pleasantly. "Well, no; he's a man of rather large sympathies."
"If you're done talking nonsense, Loudon," said Havens, "let's
be getting to my place for dinner."
Outside, the night was full of the roaring of the surf. Scattered
lights glowed in the green thicket. Native women came by
twos and threes out of the darkness, smiled and ogled the two
whites, perhaps wooed them with a strain of laughter, and went
by again, bequeathing to the air a heady perfume of palm-oil
and frangipani blossom. From the club to Mr. Havens's
residence was but a step or two, and to any dweller in Europe
they must have seemed steps in fairyland. If such an one could
but have followed our two friends into the wide-verandahed
house, sat down with them in the cool trellised room, where the
wine shone on the lamp-lighted tablecloth; tasted of their exotic
food--the raw fish, the breadfruit, the cooked bananas, the roast
pig served with the inimitable miti, and that king of delicacies,
palm-tree salad; seen and heard by fits and starts, now peering
round the corner of the door, now railing within against
invisible assistants, a certain comely young native lady in a
sacque, who seemed too modest to be a member of the family,
and too imperious to be less; and then if such an one were
whisked again through space to Upper Tooting, or wherever
else he honored the domestic gods, "I have had a dream," I
think he would say, as he sat up, rubbing his eyes, in the
familiar chimney-corner chair, "I have had a dream of a place,
and I declare I believe it must be heaven." But to Dodd and his
entertainer, all this amenity of the tropic night and all these
dainties of the island table, were grown things of custom; and
they fell to meat like men who were hungry, and drifted into
idle talk like men who were a trifle bored.
The scene in the club was referred to.
"I never heard you talk so much nonsense, Loudon," said the
"Well, it seemed to me there was sulphur in the air, so I talked
for talking," returned the other. "But it was none of it
"Do you mean to say it was true?" cried Havens,--"that about
the opium and the wreck, and the blackmailing and the man
who became your friend?"
"Every last word of it," said Loudon.
"You seem to have been seeing life," returned the other.
"Yes, it's a queer yarn," said his friend; "if you think you would
like, I'll tell it you."
Here follows the yarn of Loudon Dodd, not as he told it to his
friend, but as he subsequently wrote it.
A SOUND COMMERCIAL EDUCATION.
The beginning of this yarn is my poor father's character. There
never was a better man, nor a handsomer, nor (in my view) a
more unhappy--unhappy in his business, in his pleasures, in his
place of residence, and (I am sorry to say it) in his son. He had
begun life as a land-surveyor, soon became interested in real
estate, branched off into many other speculations, and had the
name of one of the smartest men in the State of Muskegon.
"Dodd has a big head," people used to say; but I was never so
sure of his capacity. His luck, at least, was beyond doubt for
long; his assiduity, always. He fought in that daily battle of
money-grubbing, with a kind of sad-eyed loyalty like a
martyr's; rose early, ate fast, came home dispirited and over-
eary, even from success; grudged himself all pleasure, if his
nature was capable of taking any, which I sometimes
wondered; and laid out, upon some deal in wheat or corner in
aluminium, the essence of which was little better than highway
robbery, treasures of conscientiousness and self-denial.
Unluckily, I never cared a cent for anything but art, and never
shall. My idea of man's chief end was to enrich the world with
things of beauty, and have a fairly good time myself while
doing so. I do not think I mentioned that second part, which is
the only one I have managed to carry out; but my father must
have suspected the suppression, for he branded the whole affair
"Well," I remember crying once, "and what is your life? You
are only trying to get money, and to get it from other people at
He sighed bitterly (which was very much his habit), and shook
his poor head at me. "Ah, Loudon, Loudon!" said he, "you
boys think yourselves very smart. But, struggle as you please,
a man has to work in this world. He must be an honest man or
a thief, Loudon."
You can see for yourself how vain it was to argue with my
father. The despair that seized upon me after such an interview
was, besides, embittered by remorse; for I was at times
petulant, but he invariably gentle; and I was fighting, after all,
for my own liberty and pleasure, he singly for what he thought
to be my good. And all the time he never despaired. "There is
good stuff in you, Loudon," he would say; "there is the right
stuff in you. Blood will tell, and you will come right in time. I
am not afraid my boy will ever disgrace me; I am only vexed he
should sometimes talk nonsense." And then he would pat my
shoulder or my hand with a kind of motherly way he had, very
affecting in a man so strong and beautiful.
As soon as I had graduated from the high school, he packed me
off to the Muskegon Commercial Academy. You are a
foreigner, and you will have a difficulty in accepting the reality
of this seat of education. I assure you before I begin that I am
wholly serious. The place really existed, possibly exists to-day:
we were proud of it in the State, as something exceptionally
nineteenth century and civilized; and my father, when he saw
me to the cars, no doubt considered he was putting me in a
straight line for the Presidency and the New Jerusalem.
"Loudon," said he, "I am now giving you a chance that Julius
Caesar could not have given to his son--a chance to see life as
it is, before your own turn comes to start in earnest. Avoid rash
speculation, try to behave like a gentleman; and if you will take
my advice, confine yourself to a safe, conservative business in
railroads. Breadstuffs are tempting, but very dangerous; I
would not try breadstuffs at your time of life; but you may feel
your way a little in other commodities. Take a pride to keep
your books posted, and never throw good money after bad.
There, my dear boy, kiss me good-by; and never forget that
you are an only chick, and that your dad watches your career
with fond suspense."
The commercial college was a fine, roomy establishment,
pleasantly situate among woods. The air was healthy, the food
excellent, the premium high. Electric wires connected it (to use
the words of the prospectus) with "the various world centres."
The reading-room was well supplied with "commercial
organs." The talk was that of Wall Street; and the pupils (from
fifty to a hundred lads) were principally engaged in rooking or
trying to rook one another for nominal sums in what was called
"college paper." We had class hours, indeed, in the morning,
when we studied German, French, book-keeping, and the like
goodly matters; but the bulk of our day and the gist of the
education centred in the exchange, where we were taught to
gamble in produce and securities. Since not one of the
participants possessed a bushel of wheat or a dollar's worth of
stock, legitimate business was of course impossible from the
beginning. It was cold-drawn gambling, without colour or
disguise. Just that which is the impediment and destruction of
all genuine commercial enterprise, just that we were taught
with every luxury of stage effect. Our simulacrum of a market
was ruled by the real markets outside, so that we might
experience the course and vicissitude of prices. We must keep
books, and our ledgers were overhauled at the month's end by
the principal or his assistants. To add a spice of verisimilitude,
"college paper" (like poker chips) had an actual marketable
value. It was bought for each pupil by anxious parents and
guardians at the rate of one cent for the dollar. The same pupil,
when his education was complete, resold, at the same figure,
so much as was left him to the college; and even in the midst of
his curriculum, a successful operator would sometimes realize
a proportion of his holding, and stand a supper on the sly in the
neighbouring hamlet. In short, if there was ever a worse
education, it must have been in that academy where Oliver met
When I was first guided into the exchange to have my desk
pointed out by one of the assistant teachers, I was overwhelmed
by the clamour and confusion. Certain blackboards at the other
end of the building were covered with figures continually
replaced. As each new set appeared, the pupils swayed to and
fro, and roared out aloud with a formidable and to me quite
meaningless vociferation; leaping at the same time upon the
desks and benches, signalling with arms and heads, and
scribbling briskly in note-books. I thought I had never beheld a
scene more disagreeable; and when I considered that the whole
traffic was illusory, and all the money then upon the market
would scarce have sufficed to buy a pair of skates, I was at first
astonished, although not for long. Indeed, I had no sooner
called to mind how grown-up men and women of considerable
estate will lose their temper about half-penny points, than
(making an immediate allowance for my fellow-students) I
transferred the whole of my astonishment to the assistant
teacher, who--poor gentleman--had quite forgot to show me to
my desk, and stood in the midst of this hurly-burly, absorbed
and seemingly transported.
"Look, look," he shouted in my ear; "a falling market! The
bears have had it all their own way since yesterday."
"It can't matter," I replied, making him hear with difficulty, for
I was unused to speak in such a babel, "since it is all fun."
"True," said he; "and you must always bear in mind that the
real profit is in the book-keeping. I trust, Dodd, to be able to
congratulate you upon your books. You are to start in with ten
thousand dollars of college paper, a very liberal figure, which
should see you through the whole curriculum, if you keep to a
safe, conservative business.... Why, what's that?" he broke off,
once more attracted by the changing figures on the board.
"Seven, four, three! Dodd, you are in luck: this is the most
spirited rally we have had this term. And to think that the
same scene is now transpiring in New York, Chicago, St.
Louis, and rival business centres! For two cents, I would try a
flutter with the boys myself," he cried, rubbing his hands; "only
it's against the regulations."
"What would you do, sir?" I asked.
"Do?" he cried, with glittering eyes. "Buy for all I was worth!"
"Would that be a safe, conservative business?" I inquired, as
innocent as a lamb.
He looked daggers at me. "See that sandy-haired man in
glasses?" he asked, as if to change the subject. "That's Billson,
our most prominent undergraduate. We build confidently on
Billson's future. You could not do better, Dodd, than follow
Presently after, in the midst of a still growing tumult, the
figures coming and going more busily than ever on the board,
and the hall resounding like Pandemonium with the howls of
operators, the assistant teacher left me to my own resources at
my desk. The next boy was posting up his ledger, figuring his
morning's loss, as I discovered later on; and from this ungenial
task he was readily diverted by the sight of a new face.
"Say, Freshman," he said, "what's your name? What? Son of
Big Head Dodd? What's your figure? Ten thousand? O,
you're away up! What a soft-headed clam you must be to touch
I asked him what else I could do, since the books were to be
examined once a month.
"Why, you galoot, you get a clerk!" cries he. "One of our dead
beats--that's all they're here for. If you're a successful operator,
you need never do a stroke of work in this old college."
The noise had now become deafening; and my new friend,
telling me that some one had certainly "gone down," that he
must know the news, and that he would bring me a clerk when
he returned, buttoned his coat and plunged into the tossing
throng. It proved that he was right: some one had gone down;
a prince had fallen in Israel; the corner in lard had proved fatal
to the mighty; and the clerk who was brought back to keep my
books, spare me all work, and get all my share of the education,
at a thousand dollars a month, college paper (ten dollars,
United States currency) was no other than the prominent
Billson whom I could do no better than follow. The poor lad
was very unhappy. It's the only good thing I have to say for
Muskegon Commercial College, that we were all, even the
small fry, deeply mortified to be posted as defaulters; and the
collapse of a merchant prince like Billson, who had ridden
pretty high in his days of prosperity, was, of course, particularly
hard to bear. But the spirit of make-believe conquered even the
bitterness of recent shame; and my clerk took his orders, and
fell to his new duties, with decorum and civility.
Such were my first impressions in this absurd place of
education; and, to be frank, they were far from disagreeable.
As long as I was rich, my evenings and afternoons would be
my own; the clerk must keep my books, the clerk could do the
jostling and bawling in the exchange; and I could turn my mind
to landscape-painting and Balzac's novels, which were then my
two preoccupations. To remain rich, then, became my
problem; or, in other words, to do a safe, conservative line of
business. I am looking for that line still; and I believe the
nearest thing to it in this imperfect world is the sort of
speculation sometimes insidiously proposed to childhood, in
the formula, "Heads, I win; tails, you lose." Mindful of my
father's parting words, I turned my attention timidly to
railroads; and for a month or so maintained a position of
inglorious security, dealing for small amounts in the most inert
stocks, and bearing (as best I could) the scorn of my hired
clerk. One day I had ventured a little further by way of
experiment; and, in the sure expectation they would continue to
go down, sold several thousand dollars of Pan-Handle
Preference (I think it was). I had no sooner made this venture
than some fools in New York began to bull the market;
Pan-Handles rose like a balloon; and in the inside of half an
hour I saw my position compromised. Blood will tell, as my
father said; and I stuck to it gallantly: all afternoon I continued
selling that infernal stock, all afternoon it continued skying. I
suppose I had come (a frail cockle-shell) athwart the hawse of
Jay Gould; and, indeed, I think I remember that this vagary in
the market proved subsequently to be the first move in a
considerable deal. That evening, at least, the name of H.
Loudon Dodd held the first rank in our collegiate gazette, and I
and Billson (once more thrown upon the world) were
competing for the same clerkship. The present object takes the
present eye. My disaster, for the moment, was the more
conspicuous; and it was I that got the situation. So you see,
even in Muskegon Commercial College, there were lessons to
For my own part, I cared very little whether I lost or won at a
game so random, so complex, and so dull; but it was sorry
news to write to my poor father, and I employed all the
resources of my eloquence. I told him (what was the truth) that
the successful boys had none of the education; so that if he
wished me to learn, he should rejoice at my misfortune. I went
on (not very consistently) to beg him to set me up again, when I
would solemnly promise to do a safe business in reliable
railroads. Lastly (becoming somewhat carried away), I assured
him I was totally unfit for business, and implored him to take
me away from this abominable place, and let me go to Paris to
study art. He answered briefly, gently, and sadly, telling me
the vacation was near at hand, when we could talk things over.
When the time came, he met me at the depot, and I was
shocked to see him looking older. He seemed to have no
thought but to console me and restore (what he supposed I had
lost) my courage. I must not be down-hearted; many of the
best men had made a failure in the beginning. I told him I had
no head for business, and his kind face darkened. "You must
not say that, Loudon," he replied; "I will never believe my son
to be a coward."
"But I don't like it," I pleaded. "It hasn't got any interest for
me, and art has. I know I could do more in art," and I
reminded him that a successful painter gains large sums; that a
picture of Meissonier's would sell for many thousand dollars.
"And do you think, Loudon," he replied, "that a man who can
paint a thousand dollar picture has not grit enough to keep his
end up in the stock market? No, sir; this Mason (of whom you
speak) or our own American Bierstadt--if you were to put them
down in a wheat pit to-morrow, they would show their mettle.
Come, Loudon, my dear; heaven knows I have no thought but
your own good, and I will offer you a bargain. I start you again
next term with ten thousand dollars; show yourself a man, and
double it, and then (if you still wish to go to Paris, which I
know you won't) I'll let you go. But to let you run away as if
you were whipped, is what I am too proud to do."
My heart leaped at this proposal, and then sank again. It
seemed easier to paint a Meissonier on the spot than to win ten
thousand dollars on that mimic stock exchange. Nor could I
help reflecting on the singularity of such a test for a man's
capacity to be a painter. I ventured even to comment on this.
He sighed deeply. "You forget, my dear," said he, "I am a
judge of the one, and not of the other. You might have the
genius of Bierstadt himself, and I would be none the wiser."
"And then," I continued, "it's scarcely fair. The other boys are
helped by their people, who telegraph and give them pointers.
There's Jim Costello, who never budges without a word from
his father in New York. And then, don't you see, if anybody is
to win, somebody must lose?"
"I'll keep you posted," cried my father, with unusual animation;
"I did not know it was allowed. I'll wire you in the office
cipher, and we'll make it a kind of partnership business,
Loudon:--Dodd & Son, eh?" and he patted my shoulder and
repeated, "Dodd & Son, Dodd & Son," with the kindliest
If my father was to give me pointers, and the commercial
college was to be a stepping-stone to Paris, I could look my
future in the face. The old boy, too, was so pleased at the idea
of our association in this foolery that he immediately plucked
up spirit. Thus it befell that those who had met at the depot
like a pair of mutes, sat down to table with holiday faces.
And now I have to introduce a new character that never said a
word nor wagged a finger, and yet shaped my whole
subsequent career. You have crossed the States, so that in all
likelihood you have seen the head of it, parcel-gilt and
curiously fluted, rising among trees from a wide plain; for this
new character was no other than the State capitol of Muskegon,
then first projected. My father had embraced the idea with a
mixture of patriotism and commercial greed both perfectly
genuine. He was of all the committees, he had subscribed a
great deal of money, and he was making arrangements to have
a finger in most of the contracts. Competitive plans had been
sent in; at the time of my return from college my father was
deep in their consideration; and as the idea entirely occupied
his mind, the first evening did not pass away before he had
called me into council. Here was a subject at last into which I
could throw myself with pleasurable zeal. Architecture was
new to me, indeed; but it was at least an art; and for all the arts
I had a taste naturally classical and that capacity to take
delighted pains which some famous idiot has supposed to be
synonymous with genius. I threw myself headlong into my
father's work, acquainted myself with all the plans, their merits
and defects, read besides in special books, made myself a
master of the theory of strains, studied the current prices of
materials, and (in one word) "devilled" the whole business so
thoroughly, that when the plans came up for consideration, Big
Head Dodd was supposed to have earned fresh laurels. His
arguments carried the day, his choice was approved by the
committee, and I had the anonymous satisfaction to know that
arguments and choice were wholly mine. In the recasting of
the plan which followed, my part was even larger; for I
designed and cast with my own hand a hot-air grating for the
offices, which had the luck or merit to be accepted. The energy
and aptitude which I displayed throughout delighted and
surprised my father, and I believe, although I say it whose
tongue should be tied, that they alone prevented Muskegon
capitol from being the eyesore of my native State.
Altogether, I was in a cheery frame of mind when I returned to
the commercial college; and my earlier operations were
crowned with a full measure of success. My father wrote and
wired to me continually. "You are to exercise your own
judgment, Loudon," he would say. "All that I do is to give you
the figures; but whatever operation you take up must be upon
your own responsibility, and whatever you earn will be entirely
due to your own dash and forethought." For all that, it was
always clear what he intended me to do, and I was always
careful to do it. Inside of a month I was at the head of
seventeen or eighteen thousand dollars, college paper. And
here I fell a victim to one of the vices of the system. The paper
(I have already explained) had a real value of one per cent; and
cost, and could be sold for, currency. Unsuccessful speculators
were thus always selling clothes, books, banjos, and sleeve-
links, in order to pay their differences; the successful, on the
other hand, were often tempted to realise, and enjoy some
return upon their profits. Now I wanted thirty dollars' worth of
artist-truck, for I was always sketching in the woods; my
allowance was for the time exhausted; I had begun to regard
the exchange (with my father's help) as a place where money
was to be got for stooping; and in an evil hour I realised three
thousand dollars of the college paper and bought my easel.
It was a Wednesday morning when the things arrived, and set
me in the seventh heaven of satisfaction. My father (for I can
scarcely say myself) was trying at this time a "straddle" in
wheat between Chicago and New York; the operation so called
is, as you know, one of the most tempting and least safe upon
the chess-board of finance. On the Thursday, luck began to
turn against my father's calculations; and by the Friday
evening, I was posted on the boards as a defaulter for the
second time. Here was a rude blow: my father would have
taken it ill enough in any case; for however much a man may
resent the incapacity of an only son, he will feel his own more
sensibly. But it chanced that, in our bitter cup of failure, there
was one ingredient that might truly be called poisonous. He
had been keeping the run of my position; he missed the three
thousand dollars, paper; and in his view, I had stolen thirty
dollars, currency. It was an extreme view perhaps; but in some
senses, it was just: and my father, although (to my judgment)
quite reckless of honesty in the essence of his operations, was
the soul of honour as to their details. I had one grieved letter
from him, dignified and tender; and during the rest of that
wretched term, working as a clerk, selling my clothes and
sketches to make futile speculations, my dream of Paris quite
vanished. I was cheered by no word of kindness and helped by
no hint of counsel from my father.
All the time he was no doubt thinking of little else but his son,
and what to do with him. I believe he had been really appalled
by what he regarded as my laxity of principle, and began to
think it might be well to preserve me from temptation; the
architect of the capitol had, besides, spoken obligingly of my
design; and while he was thus hanging between two minds,
Fortune suddenly stepped in, and Muskegon State capitol
reversed my destiny.
"Loudon," said my father, as he met me at the depot, with a
smiling countenance, "if you were to go to Paris, how long
would it take you to become an experienced sculptor?"
"How do you mean, father?" I cried. "Experienced?"
"A man that could be entrusted with the highest styles," he
answered; "the nude, for instance; and the patriotic and
"It might take three years," I replied.
"You think Paris necessary?" he asked. "There are great
advantages in our own country; and that man Prodgers appears
to be a very clever sculptor, though I suppose he stands too
high to go around giving lessons."
"Paris is the only place," I assured him.
"Well, I think myself it will sound better," he admitted. "A
Young Man, a Native of this State, Son of a Leading Citizen,
Studies Prosecuted under the Most Experienced Masters in
Paris," he added, relishingly.
"But, my dear dad, what is it all about?" I interrupted. "I never
even dreamed of being a sculptor."
"Well, here it is," said he. "I took up the statuary contract on
our new capitol; I took it up at first as a deal; and then it
occurred to me it would be better to keep it in the family. It
meets your idea; there's considerable money in the thing; and
it's patriotic. So, if you say the word, you shall go to Paris, and
come back in three years to decorate the capitol of your native
State. It's a big chance for you, Loudon; and I'll tell you what--
every dollar you earn, I'll put another alongside of it. But the
sooner you go, and the harder you work, the better; for if the
first half-dozen statues aren't in a line with public taste in
Muskegon, there will be trouble."
My mother's family was Scotch, and it was judged fitting I
should pay a visit on my way Paris-ward, to my Uncle Adam
Loudon, a wealthy retired grocer of Edinburgh. He was very
stiff and very ironical; he fed me well, lodged me sumptuously,
and seemed to take it out of me all the time, cent per cent, in
secret entertainment which caused his spectacles to glitter and
his mouth to twitch. The ground of this ill-suppressed mirth
(as well as I could make out) was simply the fact that I was an
American. "Well," he would say, drawing out the word to
infinity, "and I suppose now in your country, things will be so
and so." And the whole group of my cousins would titter
joyously. Repeated receptions of this sort must be at the root, I
suppose, of what they call the Great American Jest; and I know
I was myself goaded into saying that my friends went naked in
the summer months, and that the Second Methodist Episcopal
Church in Muskegon was decorated with scalps. I cannot say
that these flights had any great success; they seemed to awaken
little more surprise than the fact that my father was a
Republican or that I had been taught in school to spell
COLOUR without the U. If I had told them (what was after all
the truth) that my father had paid a considerable annual sum to
have me brought up in a gambling hell, the tittering and
grinning of this dreadful family might perhaps have been
I cannot deny but I was sometimes tempted to knock my Uncle
Adam down; and indeed I believe it must have come to a
rupture at last, if they had not given a dinner party at which I
was the lion. On this occasion, I learned (to my surprise and
relief) that the incivility to which I had been subjected was a
matter for the family circle and might be regarded almost in the
light of an endearment. To strangers I was presented with
consideration; and the account given of "my American brother-
in-law, poor Janie's man, James K. Dodd, the well-known
millionnaire of Muskegon," was calculated to enlarge the heart
of a proud son.
An aged assistant of my grandfather's, a pleasant, humble
creature with a taste for whiskey, was at first deputed to be my
guide about the city. With this harmless but hardly aristocratic
companion, I went to Arthur's Seat and the Calton Hill, heard
the band play in the Princes Street Gardens, inspected the
regalia and the blood of Rizzio, and fell in love with the great
castle on its cliff, the innumerable spires of churches, the
stately buildings, the broad prospects, and those narrow and
crowded lanes of the old town where my ancestors had lived
and died in the days before Columbus.
But there was another curiosity that interested me more deeply
--my grandfather, Alexander Loudon. In his time, the old
gentleman had been a working mason, and had risen from the
ranks more, I think, by shrewdness than by merit. In his
appearance, speech, and manners, he bore broad marks of his
origin, which were gall and wormwood to my Uncle Adam.
His nails, in spite of anxious supervision, were often in
conspicuous mourning; his clothes hung about him in bags and
wrinkles like a ploughman's Sunday coat; his accent was rude,
broad, and dragging: take him at his best, and even when he
could be induced to hold his tongue, his mere presence in a
corner of the drawing-room, with his open-air wrinkles, his
scanty hair, his battered hands, and the cheerful craftiness of
his expression, advertised the whole gang of us for a self-made
family. My aunt might mince and my cousins bridle; but there
was no getting over the solid, physical fact of the stonemason
in the chimney-corner.
That is one advantage of being an American: it never occurred
to me to be ashamed of my grandfather, and the old gentleman
was quick to mark the difference. He held my mother in tender
memory, perhaps because he was in the habit of daily
contrasting her with Uncle Adam, whom he detested to the
point of frenzy; and he set down to inheritance from his
favourite my own becoming treatment of himself. On our
walks abroad, which soon became daily, he would sometimes
(after duly warning me to keep the matter dark from "Aadam")
skulk into some old familiar pot-house; and there (if he had the
luck to encounter any of his veteran cronies) he would present
me to the company with manifest pride, casting at the same
time a covert slur on the rest of his descendants. "This is my
Jeannie's yin," he would say. "He's a fine fallow, him." The
purpose of our excursions was not to seek antiquities or to
enjoy famous prospects, but to visit one after another a series of
doleful suburbs, for which it was the old gentleman's chief
claim to renown that he had been the sole contractor, and too
often the architect besides. I have rarely seen a more shocking
exhibition: the bricks seemed to be blushing in the walls, and
the slates on the roof to have turned pale with shame; but I was
careful not to communicate these impressions to the aged
artificer at my side; and when he would direct my attention to
some fresh monstrosity--perhaps with the comment, "There's an
idee of mine's: it's cheap and tasty, and had a graand run; the
idee was soon stole, and there's whole deestricts near Glesgie
with the goathic adeetion and that plunth,"--I would civilly
make haste to admire and (what I found particularly delighted
him) to inquire into the cost of each adornment. It will be
conceived that Muskegon capitol was a frequent and a
welcome ground of talk; I drew him all the plans from memory;
and he, with the aid of a narrow volume full of figures and
tables, which answered (I believe) to the name of Molesworth,
and was his constant pocket companion, would draw up rough
estimates and make imaginary offers on the various contracts.
Our Muskegon builders he pronounced a pack of cormorants;
and the congenial subject, together with my knowledge of
architectural terms, the theory of strains, and the prices of
materials in the States, formed a strong bond of union between
what might have been otherwise an ill-assorted pair, and led
my grandfather to pronounce me, with emphasis, "a real
intalligent kind of a cheild." Thus a second time, as you will
presently see, the capitol of my native State had influentially
affected the current of my life.
I left Edinburgh, however, with not the least idea that I had
done a stroke of excellent business for myself, and singly
delighted to escape out of a somewhat dreary house and plunge
instead into the rainbow city of Paris. Every man has his own
romance; mine clustered exclusively about the practice of the
arts, the life of Latin Quarter students, and the world of Paris as
depicted by that grimy wizard, the author of the _Comedie
Humaine_. I was not disappointed--I could not have been; for I
did not see the facts, I brought them with me ready-made. Z.
Marcas lived next door to me in my ungainly, ill-smelling hotel
of the Rue Racine; I dined at my villainous restaurant with
Lousteau and with Rastignac: if a curricle nearly ran me down
at a street-crossing, Maxime de Trailles would be the driver. I
dined, I say, at a poor restaurant and lived in a poor hotel; and
this was not from need, but sentiment. My father gave me a
profuse allowance, and I might have lived (had I chosen) in the
Quartier de l'Etoile and driven to my studies daily. Had I done
so, the glamour must have fled: I should still have been but
Loudon Dodd; whereas now I was a Latin Quarter student,
Murger's successor, living in flesh and blood the life of one of
those romances I had loved to read, to re-read, and to dream
over, among the woods of Muskegon.
At this time we were all a little Murger-mad in the Latin
Quarter. The play of the _Vie de Boheme_ (a dreary, snivelling
piece) had been produced at the Odeon, had run an
unconscionable time--for Paris, and revived the freshness of the
legend. The same business, you may say, or there and
thereabout, was being privately enacted in consequence in
every garret of the neighbourhood, and a good third of the
students were consciously impersonating Rodolphe or
Schaunard to their own incommunicable satisfaction. Some of
us went far, and some farther. I always looked with awful envy
(for instance) on a certain countryman of my own who had a
studio in the Rue Monsieur le Prince, wore boots, and long hair
in a net, and could be seen tramping off, in this guise, to the
worst eating-house of the quarter, followed by a Corsican
model, his mistress, in the conspicuous costume of her race and
calling. It takes some greatness of soul to carry even folly to
such heights as these; and for my own part, I had to content
myself by pretending very arduously to be poor, by wearing a
smoking-cap on the streets, and by pursuing, through a series
of misadventures, that extinct mammal, the grisette. The most
grievous part was the eating and the drinking. I was born with
a dainty tooth and a palate for wine; and only a genuine
devotion to romance could have supported me under the cat-
civets that I had to swallow, and the red ink of Bercy I must
wash them down withal. Every now and again, after a hard
day at the studio, where I was steadily and far from
unsuccessfully industrious, a wave of distaste would overbear
me; I would slink away from my haunts and companions,
indemnify myself for weeks of self-denial with fine wines and
dainty dishes; seated perhaps on a terrace, perhaps in an arbour
in a garden, with a volume of one of my favourite authors
propped open in front of me, and now consulted awhile, and
now forgotten:--so remain, relishing my situation, till night fell
and the lights of the city kindled; and thence stroll homeward
by the riverside, under the moon or stars, in a heaven of poetry
One such indulgence led me in the course of my second year
into an adventure which I must relate: indeed, it is the very
point I have been aiming for, since that was what brought me
in acquaintance with Jim Pinkerton. I sat down alone to dinner
one October day when the rusty leaves were falling and
scuttling on the boulevard, and the minds of impressionable
men inclined in about an equal degree towards sadness and
conviviality. The restaurant was no great place, but boasted a
considerable cellar and a long printed list of vintages. This I
was perusing with the double zest of a man who is fond of
wine and a lover of beautiful names, when my eye fell (near the
end of the card) on that not very famous or familiar brand,
Roussillon. I remembered it was a wine I had never tasted,
ordered a bottle, found it excellent, and when I had discussed
the contents, called (according to my habit) for a final pint. It
appears they did not keep Roussillon in half-bottles. "All
right," said I. "Another bottle." The tables at this eating-house
are close together; and the next thing I can remember, I was in
somewhat loud conversation with my nearest neighbours.
From these I must have gradually extended my attentions; for I
have a clear recollection of gazing about a room in which every
chair was half turned round and every face turned smilingly to
mine. I can even remember what I was saying at the moment;
but after twenty years, the embers of shame are still alive; and I
prefer to give your imagination the cue, by simply mentioning
that my muse was the patriotic. It had been my design to
adjourn for coffee in the company of some of these new friends;
but I was no sooner on the sidewalk than I found myself
unaccountably alone. The circumstance scarce surprised me at
the time, much less now; but I was somewhat chagrined a little
after to find I had walked into a kiosque. I began to wonder if I
were any the worse for my last bottle, and decided to steady
myself with coffee and brandy. In the Cafe de la Source, where
I went for this restorative, the fountain was playing, and (what
greatly surprised me) the mill and the various mechanical
figures on the rockery appeared to have been freshly repaired
and performed the most enchanting antics. The cafe was
extraordinarily hot and bright, with every detail of a
conspicuous clearness, from the faces of the guests to the type
of the newspapers on the tables, and the whole apartment
swang to and fro like a hammock, with an exhilarating motion.
For some while I was so extremely pleased with these
particulars that I thought I could never be weary of beholding
them: then dropped of a sudden into a causeless sadness; and
then, with the same swiftness and spontaneity, arrived at the
conclusion that I was drunk and had better get to bed.
It was but a step or two to my hotel, where I got my lighted
candle from the porter and mounted the four flights to my own
room. Although I could not deny that I was drunk, I was at the
same time lucidly rational and practical. I had but one
preoccupation--to be up in time on the morrow for my work;
and when I observed the clock on my chimney-piece to have
stopped, I decided to go down stairs again and give directions
to the porter. Leaving the candle burning and my door open, to
be a guide to me on my return, I set forth accordingly. The
house was quite dark; but as there were only the three doors on
each landing, it was impossible to wander, and I had nothing to
do but descend the stairs until I saw the glimmer of the porter's
night light. I counted four flights: no porter. It was possible, of
course, that I had reckoned incorrectly; so I went down another
and another, and another, still counting as I went, until I had
reached the preposterous figure of nine flights. It was now
quite clear that I had somehow passed the porter's lodge
without remarking it; indeed, I was, at the lowest figure, five
pairs of stairs below the street, and plunged in the very bowels
of the earth. That my hotel should thus be founded upon
catacombs was a discovery of considerable interest; and if I had
not been in a frame of mind entirely businesslike, I might have
continued to explore all night this subterranean empire. But I
was bound I must be up betimes on the next morning, and for
that end it was imperative that I should find the porter. I faced
about accordingly, and counting with painful care, remounted
towards the level of the street. Five, six, and seven flights I
climbed, and still there was no porter. I began to be weary of
the job, and reflecting that I was now close to my own room,
decided I should go to bed. Eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve,
thirteen flights I mounted; and my open door seemed to be as
wholly lost to me as the porter and his floating dip. I
remembered that the house stood but six stories at its highest
point, from which it appeared (on the most moderate
computation) I was now three stories higher than the roof. My
original sense of amusement was succeeded by a not unnatural
irritation. "My room has just GOT to be here," said I, and I
stepped towards the door with outspread arms. There was no
door and no wall; in place of either there yawned before me a
dark corridor, in which I continued to advance for some time
without encountering the smallest opposition. And this in a
house whose extreme area scantily contained three small
rooms, a narrow landing, and the stair! The thing was
manifestly nonsense; and you will scarcely be surprised to learn
that I now began to lose my temper. At this juncture I
perceived a filtering of light along the floor, stretched forth my
hand which encountered the knob of a door-handle, and
without further ceremony entered a room. A young lady was
within; she was going to bed, and her toilet was far advanced,
or the other way about, if you prefer.
"I hope you will pardon this intrusion," said I; "but my room is
No. 12, and something has gone wrong with this blamed
She looked at me a moment; and then, "If you will step outside
for a moment, I will take you there," says she.
Thus, with perfect composure on both sides, the matter was
arranged. I waited a while outside her door. Presently she
rejoined me, in a dressing-gown, took my hand, led me up
another flight, which made the fourth above the level of the
roof, and shut me into my own room, where (being quite weary
after these contraordinary explorations) I turned in, and
slumbered like a child.
I tell you the thing calmly, as it appeared to me to pass; but the
next day, when I awoke and put memory in the witness-box, I
could not conceal from myself that the tale presented a good
many improbable features. I had no mind for the studio, after
all, and went instead to the Luxembourg gardens, there, among
the sparrows and the statues and the falling leaves, to cool and
clear my head. It is a garden I have always loved. You sit
there in a public place of history and fiction. Barras and
Fouche have looked from these windows. Lousteau and de
Banville (one as real as the other) have rhymed upon these
benches. The city tramples by without the railings to a lively
measure; and within and about you, trees rustle, children and
sparrows utter their small cries, and the statues look on forever.
Here, then, in a seat opposite the gallery entrance, I set to work
on the events of the last night, to disengage (if it were possible)
truth from fiction.
The house, by daylight, had proved to be six stories high, the
same as ever. I could find, with all my architectural
experience, no room in its altitude for those interminable
stairways, no width between its walls for that long corridor,
where I had tramped at night. And there was yet a greater
difficulty. I had read somewhere an aphorism that everything
may be false to itself save human nature. A house might
elongate or enlarge itself--or seem to do so to a gentleman who
had been dining. The ocean might dry up, the rocks melt in the
sun, the stars fall from heaven like autumn apples; and there
was nothing in these incidents to boggle the philosopher. But
the case of the young lady stood upon a different foundation.
Girls were not good enough, or not good that way, or else they
were too good. I was ready to accept any of these views: all
pointed to the same conclusion, which I was thus already on
the point of reaching, when a fresh argument occurred, and
instantly confirmed it. I could remember the exact words we
had each said; and I had spoken, and she had replied, in
English. Plainly, then, the whole affair was an illusion:
catacombs, and stairs, and charitable lady, all were equally the
stuff of dreams.
I had just come to this determination, when there blew a flaw
of wind through the autumnal gardens; the dead leaves
showered down, and a flight of sparrows, thick as a snowfall,
wheeled above my head with sudden pipings. This agreeable
bustle was the affair of a moment, but it startled me from the
abstraction into which I had fallen like a summons. I sat
briskly up, and as I did so, my eyes rested on the figure of a
lady in a brown jacket and carrying a paint-box. By her side
walked a fellow some years older than myself, with an easel
under his arm; and alike by their course and cargo I might
judge they were bound for the gallery, where the lady was,
doubtless, engaged upon some copying. You can imagine my
surprise when I recognized in her the heroine of my adventure.
To put the matter beyond question, our eyes met, and she,
seeing herself remembered and recalling the trim in which I
had last beheld her, looked swiftly on the ground with just a
shadow of confusion.
I could not tell you to-day if she were plain or pretty; but she
had behaved with so much good sense, and I had cut so poor a
figure in her presence, that I became instantly fired with the
desire to display myself in a more favorable light. The young
man besides was possibly her brother; brothers are apt to be
hasty, theirs being a part in which it is possible, at a
comparatively early age, to assume the dignity of manhood;
and it occurred to me it might be wise to forestall all possible
complications by an apology.
On this reasoning I drew near to the gallery door, and had
hardly got in position before the young man came out. Thus it
was that I came face to face with my third destiny; for my
career has been entirely shaped by these three elements,--my
father, the capitol of Muskegon, and my friend, Jim Pinkerton.
As for the young lady with whom my mind was at the moment
chiefly occupied, I was never to hear more of her from that day
forward: an excellent example of the Blind Man's Buff that we
TO INTRODUCE MR. PINKERTON.
The stranger, I have said, was some years older than myself: a
man of a good stature, a very lively face, cordial, agitated
manners, and a gray eye as active as a fowl's.
"May I have a word with you?" said I.
"My dear sir," he replied, "I don't know what it can be about,
but you may have a hundred if you like."
"You have just left the side of a young lady," I continued,
"towards whom I was led (very unintentionally) into the
appearance of an offence. To speak to herself would be only to
renew her embarrassment, and I seize the occasion of making
my apology, and declaring my respect, to one of my own sex
who is her friend, and perhaps," I added, with a bow, "her
"You are a countryman of mine; I know it!" he cried: "I am
sure of it by your delicacy to a lady. You do her no more than
justice. I was introduced to her the other night at tea, in the
apartment of some people, friends of mine; and meeting her
again this morning, I could not do less than carry her easel for
her. My dear sir, what is your name?"
I was disappointed to find he had so little bond with my young
lady; and but that it was I who had sought the acquaintance,
might have been tempted to retreat. At the same time,
something in the stranger's eye engaged me.
"My name," said I, "is Loudon Dodd; I am a student of
sculpture here from Muskegon."
"Of sculpture?" he cried, as though that would have been his
last conjecture. "Mine is James Pinkerton; I am delighted to
have the pleasure of your acquaintance."
"Pinkerton!" it was now my turn to exclaim. "Are you Broken-
He admitted his identity with a laugh of boyish delight; and
indeed any young man in the quarter might have been proud to
own a sobriquet thus gallantly acquired.
In order to explain the name, I must here digress into a chapter
of the history of manners in the nineteenth century, very well
worth commemoration for its own sake. In some of the studios
at that date, the hazing of new pupils was both barbarous and
obscene. Two incidents, following one on the heels of the other
tended to produce an advance in civilization by the means (as
so commonly happens) of a passing appeal to savage
standards. The first was the arrival of a little gentleman from
Armenia. He had a fez upon his head and (what nobody
counted on) a dagger in his pocket. The hazing was set about
in the customary style, and, perhaps in virtue of the victim's
head-gear, even more boisterously than usual. He bore it at
first with an inviting patience; but upon one of the students
proceeding to an unpardonable freedom, plucked out his knife
and suddenly plunged it in the belly of the jester. This
gentleman, I am pleased to say, passed months upon a bed of
sickness, before he was in a position to resume his studies.
The second incident was that which had earned Pinkerton his
reputation. In a crowded studio, while some very filthy
brutalities were being practised on a trembling debutant, a tall,
pale fellow sprang from his stool and (without the smallest
preface or explanation) sang out, "All English and Americans
to clear the shop!" Our race is brutal, but not filthy; and the
summons was nobly responded to. Every Anglo-Saxon student
seized his stool; in a moment the studio was full of bloody
coxcombs, the French fleeing in disorder for the door, the
victim liberated and amazed. In this feat of arms, both English
-speaking nations covered themselves with glory; but I am
proud to claim the author of the whole for an American, and a
patriotic American at that, being the same gentleman who had
subsequently to be held down in the bottom of a box during a
performance of _L'Oncle Sam_, sobbing at intervals, "My
country! O my country!" While yet another (my new
acquaintance, Pinkerton) was supposed to have made the most
conspicuous figure in the actual battle. At one blow, he had
broken his own stool, and sent the largest of his opponents
back foremost through what we used to call a "conscientious
nude." It appears that, in the continuation of his flight, this
fallen warrior issued on the boulevard still framed in the burst
It will be understood how much talk the incident aroused in the
students' quarter, and that I was highly gratified to make the
acquaintance of my famous countryman. It chanced I was to
see more of the quixotic side of his character before the
morning was done; for as we continued to stroll together, I
found myself near the studio of a young Frenchman whose
work I had promised to examine, and in the fashion of the
quarter carried up Pinkerton along with me. Some of my
comrades of this date were pretty obnoxious fellows. I could
almost always admire and respect the grown-up practitioners of
art in Paris; but many of those who were still in a state of
pupilage were sorry specimens, so much so that I used often to
wonder where the painters came from, and where the brutes of
students went to. A similar mystery hangs over the
intermediate stages of the medical profession, and must have
perplexed the least observant. The ruffian, at least, whom I
now carried Pinkerton to visit, was one of the most crapulous in
the quarter. He turned out for our delectation a huge "crust" (as
we used to call it) of St. Stephen, wallowing in red upon his
belly in an exhausted receiver, and a crowd of Hebrews in blue,
green, and yellow, pelting him--apparently with buns; and
while we gazed upon this contrivance, regaled us with a piece
of his own recent biography, of which his mind was still very
full, and which he seemed to fancy, represented him in a heroic
posture. I was one of those cosmopolitan Americans, who
accept the world (whether at home or abroad) as they find it,
and whose favourite part is that of the spectator; yet even I was
listening with ill-suppressed disgust, when I was aware of a
violent plucking at my sleeve.
"Is he saying he kicked her down stairs?" asked Pinkerton,
white as St. Stephen.
"Yes," said I: "his discarded mistress; and then he pelted her
with stones. I suppose that's what gave him the idea for his
picture. He has just been alleging the pathetic excuse that she
was old enough to be his mother."
Something like a sob broke from Pinkerton. "Tell him," he
gasped--"I can't speak this language, though I understand a
little; I never had any proper education--tell him I'm going to
punch his head."
"For God's sake, do nothing of the sort!" I cried. "They don't
understand that sort of thing here." And I tried to bundle him
"Tell him first what we think of him," he objected. "Let me tell
him what he looks in the eyes of a pure-minded American"
"Leave that to me," said I, thrusting Pinkerton clear through the
"Qu'est-ce qu'il a?" inquired the student.
 "What's the matter with him?"
"Monsieur se sent mal au coeur d'avoir trop regarde votre
croute," said I, and made my escape, scarce with dignity, at
 "The gentleman is sick at his stomach from having looked
too long at your daub."
"What did you say to him?" he asked.
"The only thing that he could feel," was my reply.
After this scene, the freedom with which I had ejected my new
acquaintance, and the precipitation with which I had followed
him, the least I could do was to propose luncheon. I have
forgot the name of the place to which I led him, nothing loath;
it was on the far side of the Luxembourg at least, with a garden
behind, where we were speedily set face to face at table, and
began to dig into each other's history and character, like terriers
after rabbits, according to the approved fashion of youth.
Pinkerton's parents were from the old country; there too, I
incidentally gathered, he had himself been born, though it was
a circumstance he seemed prone to forget. Whether he had run
away, or his father had turned him out, I never fathomed; but
about the age of twelve, he was thrown upon his own
resources. A travelling tin-type photographer picked him up,
like a haw out of a hedgerow, on a wayside in New Jersey; took
a fancy to the urchin; carried him on with him in his wandering
life; taught him all he knew himself--to take tin-types (as well
as I can make out) and doubt the Scriptures; and died at last in
Ohio at the corner of a road. "He was a grand specimen," cried
Pinkerton; "I wish you could have seen him, Mr. Dodd. He had
an appearance of magnanimity that used to remind me of the
patriarchs." On the death of this random protector, the boy
inherited the plant and continued the business. "It was a life I
could have chosen, Mr. Dodd!" he cried. "I have been in all the
finest scenes of that magnificent continent that we were born to
be the heirs of. I wish you could see my collection of tin-types;
I wish I had them here. They were taken for my own pleasure
and to be a memento; and they show Nature in her grandest as
well as her gentlest moments." As he tramped the Western
States and Territories, taking tin-types, the boy was continually
getting hold of books, good, bad, and indifferent, popular and
abstruse, from the novels of Sylvanus Cobb to Euclid's
Elements, both of which I found (to my almost equal wonder)
he had managed to peruse: he was taking stock by the way, of
the people, the products, and the country, with an eye unusually
observant and a memory unusually retentive; and he was
collecting for himself a body of magnanimous and semi-
intellectual nonsense, which he supposed to be the natural
thoughts and to contain the whole duty of the born American.
To be pure-minded, to be patriotic, to get culture and money
with both hands and with the same irrational fervour--these
appeared to be the chief articles of his creed. In later days (not
of course upon this first occasion) I would sometimes ask him
why; and he had his answer pat. "To build up the type!" he
would cry. "We're all committed to that; we're all under bond
to fulfil the American Type! Loudon, the hope of the world is
there. If we fail, like these old feudal monarchies, what is
The trade of a tin-typer proved too narrow for the lad's
ambition; it was insusceptible of expansion, he explained, it
was not truly modern; and by a sudden conversion of front, he
became a railroad-scalper. The principles of this trade I never
clearly understood; but its essence appears to be to cheat the
railroads out of their due fare. "I threw my whole soul into it; I
grudged myself food and sleep while I was at it; the most
practised hands admitted I had caught on to the idea in a month
and revolutionised the practice inside of a year," he said. "And
there's interest in it, too. It's amusing to pick out some one
going by, make up your mind about his character and tastes,
dash out of the office and hit him flying with an offer of the
very place he wants to go to. I don't think there was a scalper
on the continent made fewer blunders. But I took it only as a
stage. I was saving every dollar; I was looking ahead. I knew
what I wanted--wealth, education, a refined home, and a
conscientious, cultured lady for a wife; for, Mr. Dodd"--this
with a formidable outcry--"every man is bound to marry above
him: if the woman's not the man's superior, I brand it as mere
sensuality. There was my idea, at least. That was what I was
saving for; and enough, too! But it isn't every man, I know that
--it's far from every man--could do what I did: close up the
livest agency in Saint Jo, where he was coining dollars by the
pot, set out alone, without a friend or a word of French, and
settle down here to spend his capital learning art."
"Was it an old taste?" I asked him, "or a sudden fancy?"
"Neither, Mr. Dodd," he admitted. "Of course I had learned in
my tin-typing excursions to glory and exult in the works of
God. But it wasn't that. I just said to myself, What is most
wanted in my age and country? More culture and more art, I
said; and I chose the best place, saved my money, and came
here to get them."
The whole attitude of this young man warmed and shamed me.
He had more fire in his little toe than I had in my whole
carcase; he was stuffed to bursting with the manly virtues;
thrift and courage glowed in him; and even if his artistic
vocation seemed (to one of my exclusive tenets) not quite clear,
who could predict what might be accomplished by a creature so
full-blooded and so inspired with animal and intellectual
energy? So, when he proposed that I should come and see his
work (one of the regular stages of a Latin Quarter friendship), I
followed him with interest and hope.
He lodged parsimoniously at the top of a tall house near the
Observatory, in a bare room, principally furnished with his own
trunks and papered with his own despicable studies. No man
has less taste for disagreeable duties than myself; perhaps there
is only one subject on which I cannot flatter a man without a
blush; but upon that, upon all that touches art, my sincerity is
Roman. Once and twice I made the circuit of his walls in
silence, spying in every corner for some spark of merit; he,
meanwhile, following close at my heels, reading the verdict in
my face with furtive glances, presenting some fresh study for
my inspection with undisguised anxiety, and (after it had been
silently weighed in the balances and found wanting) whisking
it away with an open gesture of despair. By the time the
second round was completed, we were both extremely
"O!" he groaned, breaking the long silence, "it's quite
unnecessary you should speak!"
"Do you want me to be frank with you? I think you are wasting
time," said I.
"You don't see any promise?" he inquired, beguiled by some
return of hope, and turning upon me the embarrassing
brightness of his eye. "Not in this still-life here, of the melon?
One fellow thought it good."
It was the least I could do to give the melon a more particular
examination; which, when I had done, I could but shake my
head. "I am truly sorry, Pinkerton," said I, "but I can't advise
you to persevere."
He seemed to recover his fortitude at the moment, rebounding
from disappointment like a man of india-rubber. "Well," said
he stoutly, "I don't know that I'm surprised. But I'll go on with
the course; and throw my whole soul into it, too. You mustn't
think the time is lost. It's all culture; it will help me to extend
my relations when I get back home; it may fit me for a position
on one of the illustrateds; and then I can always turn dealer," he
said, uttering the monstrous proposition, which was enough to
shake the Latin Quarter to the dust, with entire simplicity. "It's
all experience, besides;" he continued, "and it seems to me
there's a tendency to underrate experience, both as net profit
and investment. Never mind. That's done with. But it took
courage for you to say what you did, and I'll never forget it.
Here's my hand, Mr. Dodd. I'm not your equal in culture or
"You know nothing about that," I interrupted. "I have seen
your work, but you haven't seen mine.
"No more I have," he cried; "and let's go see it at once! But I
know you are away up. I can feel it here."
To say truth, I was almost ashamed to introduce him to my
studio--my work, whether absolutely good or bad, being so
vastly superior to his. But his spirits were now quite restored;
and he amazed me, on the way, with his light-hearted talk and
new projects. So that I began at last to understand how matters
lay: that this was not an artist who had been deprived of the
practice of his single art; but only a business man of very
extended interests, informed (perhaps something of the most
suddenly) that one investment out of twenty had gone wrong.
As a matter of fact besides (although I never suspected it) he
was already seeking consolation with another of the muses, and
pleasing himself with the notion that he would repay me for my
sincerity, cement our friendship, and (at one and the same
blow) restore my estimation of his talents. Several times
already, when I had been speaking of myself, he had pulled out
a writing-pad and scribbled a brief note; and now, when we
entered the studio, I saw it in his hand again, and the pencil go
to his mouth, as he cast a comprehensive glance round the
"Are you going to make a sketch of it?" I could not help asking,
as I unveiled the Genius of Muskegon.
"Ah, that's my secret," said he. "Never you mind. A mouse
can help a lion."
He walked round my statue and had the design explained to
him. I had represented Muskegon as a young, almost a
stripling, mother, with something of an Indian type; the babe
upon her knees was winged, to indicate our soaring future; and
her seat was a medley of sculptured fragments, Greek, Roman,
and Gothic, to remind us of the older worlds from which we
trace our generation.
"Now, does this satisfy you, Mr. Dodd?" he inquired, as soon
as I had explained to him the main features of the design.
"Well," I said, "the fellows seem to think it's not a bad bonne
femme for a beginner. I don't think it's entirely bad myself.
Here is the best point; it builds up best from here. No, it seems
to me it has a kind of merit," I admitted; "but I mean to do
"Ah, that's the word!" cried Pinkerton. "There's the word I
love!" and he scribbled in his pad.
"What in creation ails you?" I inquired. "It's the most
commonplace expression in the English language."
"Better and better!" chuckled Pinkerton. "The unconsciousness
of genius. Lord, but this is coming in beautiful!" and he
"If you're going to be fulsome," said I, "I'll close the place of
entertainment." And I threatened to replace the veil upon the
"No, no," said he. "Don't be in a hurry. Give me a point or
two. Show me what's particularly good."
"I would rather you found that out for yourself," said I.
"The trouble is," said he, "that I've never turned my attention to
sculpture, beyond, of course, admiring it, as everybody must
who has a soul. So do just be a good fellow, and explain to me
what you like in it, and what you tried for, and where the merit
comes in. It'll be all education for me."
"Well, in sculpture, you see, the first thing you have to consider
is the masses. It's, after all, a kind of architecture," I began,
and delivered a lecture on that branch of art, with illustrations
from my own masterpiece there present, all of which, if you
don't mind, or whether you mind or not, I mean to
conscientiously omit. Pinkerton listened with a fiery interest,
questioned me with a certain uncultivated shrewdness, and
continued to scratch down notes, and tear fresh sheets from his
pad. I found it inspiring to have my words thus taken down
like a professor's lecture; and having had no previous
experience of the press, I was unaware that they were all being
taken down wrong. For the same reason (incredible as it must
appear in an American) I never entertained the least suspicion
that they were destined to be dished up with a sauce of penny-
a-lining gossip; and myself, my person, and my works of art
butchered to make a holiday for the readers of a Sunday paper.
Night had fallen over the Genius of Muskegon before the issue
of my theoretic eloquence was stayed, nor did I separate from
my new friend without an appointment for the morrow.
I was indeed greatly taken with this first view of my
countryman, and continued, on further acquaintance, to be
interested, amused, and attracted by him in about equal
proportions. I must not say he had a fault, not only because my
mouth is sealed by gratitude, but because those he had sprang
merely from his education, and you could see he had cultivated
and improved them like virtues. For all that, I can never deny
he was a troublous friend to me, and the trouble began early.
It may have been a fortnight later that I divined the secret of the
writing-pad. My wretch (it leaked out) wrote letters for a paper
in the West, and had filled a part of one of them with
descriptions of myself. I pointed out to him that he had no
right to do so without asking my permission.
"Why, this is just what I hoped!" he exclaimed. "I thought you
didn't seem to catch on; only it seemed too good to be true."
"But, my good fellow, you were bound to warn me," I objected.
"I know it's generally considered etiquette," he admitted; "but
between friends, and when it was only with a view of serving
you, I thought it wouldn't matter. I wanted it (if possible) to
come on you as a surprise; I wanted you just to waken, like
Lord Byron, and find the papers full of you. You must admit it
was a natural thought. And no man likes to boast of a favour
"But, heavens and earth! how do you know I think it a favour?"
He became immediately plunged in despair. "You think it a
liberty," said he; "I see that. I would rather have cut off my
hand. I would stop it now, only it's too late; it's published by
now. And I wrote it with so much pride and pleasure!"
I could think of nothing but how to console him. "O, I daresay
it's all right," said I. "I know you meant it kindly, and you
would be sure to do it in good taste."
"That you may swear to," he cried. "It's a pure, bright, A
number 1 paper; the St. Jo _Sunday Herald_. The idea of the
series was quite my own; I interviewed the editor, put it to him
straight; the freshness of the idea took him, and I walked out of
that office with the contract in my pocket, and did my first Paris
letter that evening in Saint Jo. The editor did no more than
glance his eye down the headlines. 'You're the man for us,'
I was certainly far from reassured by this sketch of the class of
literature in which I was to make my first appearance; but I
said no more, and possessed my soul in patience, until the day
came when I received a copy of a newspaper marked in the
corner, "Compliments of J.P." I opened it with sensible
shrinkings; and there, wedged between an account of a prize-
fight and a skittish article upon chiropody--think of chiropody
treated with a leer!--I came upon a column and a half in which
myself and my poor statue were embalmed. Like the editor
with the first of the series, I did but glance my eye down the
head-lines and was more than satisfied.
ANOTHER OF PINKERTON'S SPICY CHATS.
ART PRACTITIONERS IN PARIS.
MUSKEGON'S COLUMNED CAPITOL.
SON OF MILLIONAIRE DODD,
PATRIOT AND ARTIST.
"HE MEANS TO DO BETTER."
In the body of the text, besides, my eye caught, as it passed,
some deadly expressions: "Figure somewhat fleshy," "bright,
intellectual smile," "the unconsciousness of genius," "'Now,
Mr. Dodd,' resumed the reporter, 'what would be your idea of a
distinctively American quality in sculpture?'" It was true the
question had been asked; it was true, alas! that I had answered;
and now here was my reply, or some strange hash of it,
gibbeted in the cold publicity of type. I thanked God that my
French fellow-students were ignorant of English; but when I
thought of the British--of Myner (for instance) or the Stennises
--I think I could have fallen on Pinkerton and beat him.
To divert my thoughts (if it were possible) from this calamity, I
turned to a letter from my father which had arrived by the same
post. The envelope contained a strip of newspaper-cutting; and
my eye caught again, "Son of Millionaire Dodd--Figure
somewhat fleshy," and the rest of the degrading nonsense.
What would my father think of it? I wondered, and opened his
manuscript. "My dearest boy," it began, "I send you a cutting
which has pleased me very much, from a St. Joseph paper of
high standing. At last you seem to be coming fairly to the
front; and I cannot but reflect with delight and gratitude how
very few youths of your age occupy nearly two columns of
press-matter all to themselves. I only wish your dear mother
had been here to read it over my shoulder; but we will hope she
shares my grateful emotion in a better place. Of course I have
sent a copy to your grandfather and uncle in Edinburgh; so you
can keep the one I enclose. This Jim Pinkerton seems a
valuable acquaintance; he has certainly great talent; and it is a
good general rule to keep in with pressmen."
I hope it will be set down to the right side of my account, but I
had no sooner read these words, so touchingly silly, than my
anger against Pinkerton was swallowed up in gratitude. Of all
the circumstances of my career, my birth, perhaps, excepted,
not one had given my poor father so profound a pleasure as this
article in the _Sunday Herald_. What a fool, then, was I, to be
lamenting! when I had at last, and for once, and at the cost of
only a few blushes, paid back a fraction of my debt of gratitude.
So that, when I next met Pinkerton, I took things very lightly;
my father was pleased, and thought the letter very clever, I told
him; for my own part, I had no taste for publicity: thought the
public had no concern with the artist, only with his art; and
though I owned he had handled it with great consideration, I
should take it as a favour if he never did it again.
"There it is," he said despondingly. "I've hurt you. You can't
deceive me, Loudon. It's the want of tact, and it's incurable."
He sat down, and leaned his head upon his hand. "I had no
advantages when I was young, you see," he added.
"Not in the least, my dear fellow," said I. "Only the next time
you wish to do me a service, just speak about my work; leave
my wretched person out, and my still more wretched
conversation; and above all," I added, with an irrepressible
shudder, "don't tell them how I said it! There's that phrase,
now: 'With a proud, glad smile.' Who cares whether I smiled
"Oh, there now, Loudon, you're entirely wrong," he broke in.
"That's what the public likes; that's the merit of the thing, the
literary value. It's to call up the scene before them; it's to
enable the humblest citizen to enjoy that afternoon the same as
I did. Think what it would have been to me when I was
tramping around with my tin-types to find a column and a half
of real, cultured conversation--an artist, in his studio abroad,
talking of his art--and to know how he looked as he did it, and
what the room was like, and what he had for breakfast; and to
tell myself, eating tinned beans beside a creek, that if all went
well, the same sort of thing would, sooner or later, happen to
myself: why, Loudon, it would have been like a peephole into
"Well, if it gives so much pleasure," I admitted, "the sufferers
shouldn't complain. Only give the other fellows a turn."
The end of the matter was to bring myself and the journalist in
a more close relation. If I know anything at all of human
nature--and the IF is no mere figure of speech, but stands for
honest doubt--no series of benefits conferred, or even dangers
shared, would have so rapidly confirmed our friendship as this
quarrel avoided, this fundamental difference of taste and
training accepted and condoned.
IN WHICH I EXPERIENCE EXTREMES OF FORTUNE.
Whether it came from my training and repeated bankruptcy at
the commercial college, or by direct inheritance from old
Loudon, the Edinburgh mason, there can be no doubt about the
fact that I was thrifty. Looking myself impartially over, I
believe that is my only manly virtue. During my first two years
in Paris I not only made it a point to keep well inside of my
allowance, but accumulated considerable savings in the bank.
You will say, with my masquerade of living as a penniless
student, it must have been easy to do so: I should have had no
difficulty, however, in doing the reverse. Indeed, it is
wonderful I did not; and early in the third year, or soon after I
had known Pinkerton, a singular incident proved it to have
been equally wise. Quarter-day came, and brought no
allowance. A letter of remonstrance was despatched, and for
the first time in my experience, remained unanswered. A
cablegram was more effectual; for it brought me at least a
promise of attention. "Will write at once," my father
telegraphed; but I waited long for his letter. I was puzzled,
angry, and alarmed; but thanks to my previous thrift, I cannot
say that I was ever practically embarrassed. The
embarrassment, the distress, the agony, were all for my
unhappy father at home in Muskegon, struggling for life and
fortune against untoward chances, returning at night from a day
of ill-starred shifts and ventures, to read and perhaps to weep
over that last harsh letter from his only child, to which he
lacked the courage to reply.
Nearly three months after time, and when my economies were
beginning to run low, I received at last a letter with the
customary bills of exchange.
"My dearest boy," it ran, "I believe, in the press of anxious
business, your letters and even your allowance have been
somewhile neglected. You must try to forgive your poor old
dad, for he has had a trying time; and now when it is over, the
doctor wants me to take my shotgun and go to the Adirondacks
for a change. You must not fancy I am sick, only over-driven
and under the weather. Many of our foremost operators have
gone down: John T. M'Brady skipped to Canada with a
trunkful of boodle; Billy Sandwith, Charlie Downs, Joe Kaiser,
and many others of our leading men in this city bit the dust.
But Big-Head Dodd has again weathered the blizzard, and I
think I have fixed things so that we may be richer than ever
"Now I will tell you, my dear, what I propose. You say you are
well advanced with your first statue; start in manfully and
finish it, and if your teacher--I can never remember how to spell
his name--will send me a certificate that it is up to market
standard, you shall have ten thousand dollars to do what you
like with, either at home or in Paris. I suggest, since you say
the facilities for work are so much greater in that city, you
would do well to buy or build a little home; and the first thing
you know, your dad will be dropping in for a luncheon.
Indeed, I would come now, for I am beginning to grow old, and
I long to see my dear boy; but there are still some operations
that want watching and nursing. Tell your friend, Mr.
Pinkerton, that I read his letters every week; and though I have
looked in vain lately for my Loudon's name, still I learn
something of the life he is leading in that strange, old world,
depicted by an able pen."
Here was a letter that no young man could possibly digest in
solitude. It marked one of those junctures when the confidant
is necessary; and the confidant selected was none other than
Jim Pinkerton. My father's message may have had an influence
in this decision; but I scarce suppose so, for the intimacy was
already far advanced. I had a genuine and lively taste for my
compatriot; I laughed at, I scolded, and I loved him. He, upon
his side, paid me a kind of doglike service of admiration,
gazing at me from afar off as at one who had liberally enjoyed
those "advantages" which he envied for himself. He followed
at heel; his laugh was ready chorus; our friends gave him the
nickname of "The Henchman." It was in this insidious form
that servitude approached me.
Pinkerton and I read and re-read the famous news: he, I can
swear, with an enjoyment as unalloyed and far more vocal than
my own. The statue was nearly done: a few days' work sufficed
to prepare it for exhibition; the master was approached; he gave
his consent; and one cloudless morning of May beheld us
gathered in my studio for the hour of trial. The master wore his
many-hued rosette; he came attended by two of my French
fellow-pupils--friends of mine and both considerable sculptors
in Paris at this hour. "Corporal John" (as we used to call him)
breaking for once those habits of study and reserve which have
since carried him so high in the opinion of the world, had left
his easel of a morning to countenance a fellow-countryman in
some suspense. My dear old Romney was there by particular
request; for who that knew him would think a pleasure quite
complete unless he shared it, or not support a mortification
more easily if he were present to console? The party was
completed by John Myner, the Englishman; by the brothers
Stennis,--Stennis-aine and Stennis-frere, as they used to figure
on their accounts at Barbizon--a pair of hare-brained Scots; and
by the inevitable Jim, as white as a sheet and bedewed with the
sweat of anxiety.
I suppose I was little better myself when I unveiled the Genius
of Muskegon. The master walked about it seriously; then he
"It is already not so bad," said he, in that funny English of
which he was so proud. "No, already not so bad."
We all drew a deep breath of relief; and Corporal John (as the
most considerable junior present) explained to him it was
intended for a public building, a kind of prefecture--
"He! Quoi?" cried he, relapsing into French. "Qu'est-ce que
vous me chantez la? O, in America," he added, on further
information being hastily furnished. "That is anozer sing. O,
very good, very good."
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