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- An Adventure With A Genius - 1/21 -






In the course of my wanderings about the labyrinth of life it has been my good fortune to find awaiting me around every corner some new adventure. If these have generally lacked that vividness of action which to the eye of youth is the very test of adventure, they have been rich in a kind of experience which to a mature and reflective mind has a value not to be measured in terms of dramatic incident.

My adventures, in a word, have been chiefly those of personal contact with the sort of men whose lives are the material around which history builds its story, and from which fiction derives all that lends to it the air of reality.

I have had friends and acquaintances in a score of countries, and in every station of society--kings and beggars, viceroys and ward- politicians, judges and criminals, men of brain and men of brawn.

My first outstanding adventure was with a stern and formidable man, the captain of a sailing vessel, of whose ship's company I was one in a voyage across the Pacific; one of my most recent was with a man not less stern or formidable, with the man who is the central figure in the present narrative.

The tale has been told before in a volume entitled "Joseph Pulitzer: Reminiscences of a Secretary." The volume has been out of print for some time, but the continued demand for it has called for its re-issue. The change in title has been made in response to many suggestions that the character of the material is more aptly described as "An Adventure with a Genius."

ALLEYNE IRELAND. New York, 1920.


I. In a Casting Net II. Meeting Joseph Pulitzer III. Life at Cap Martin IV. Yachting in the Mediterranean V. Getting to Know Mr. Pulitzer VI. Weisbaden and an Atlantic Voyage VII. Bar Harbor and the Last Cruise



A long illness, a longer convalescence, a positive injunction from my doctor to leave friends and business associates and to seek some spot where a comfortable bed and good food could be had in convenient proximity to varied but mild forms of amusement--and I found myself in the autumn of the year 1910 free and alone in the delightful city of Hamburg.

All my plans had gone down wind, and as I sat at my table in the Cafe Ziechen, whence, against the background of the glittering blue of the Alster, I could see the busy life of the Alter Jungfernstieg and the Alsterdamm, my thoughts turned naturally to the future.

It is not the easiest thing in the world to reconstruct at forty years of age the whole scheme of your life; but my illness, and other happenings of a highly disagreeable character, had compelled me to abandon a career to which I had devoted twenty years of arduous labor; and the question which pressed for an immediate answer was: What are you going to do now?

Various alternatives presented themselves. There had been a suggestion that I should take the editorship of a newspaper in Calcutta; an important financial house in London had offered me the direction of its interests in Western Canada; a post in the service of the Government of India had been mentioned as a possibility by certain persons in authority.

My own inclination, the child of a weary spirit and of the lassitude of ill health, swayed me in the direction of a quiet retreat in Barbados, that peaceful island of an eternal summer cooled by the northeast trades, where the rush and turmoil of modern life are unknown and where a very modest income more than suffices for all the needs of a simple existence.

I shall never know to what issue my reflections upon these matters would have led me, for a circumstance, in the last degree trivial, intervened to turn my thoughts into an entirely new channel, and to guide me, though I could not know it at the time, into the service of Joseph Pulitzer.

My waiter was extremely busy serving a large party of artillery officers at an adjoining table. I glanced through The Times and the Hamburger Nachrichten, looked out for a while upon the crowded street, and then, resigning myself to the delay in getting my lunch, picked up The Times again and did what I had never done before in my life--read the advertisements under the head "Professional Situations."

All except one were of the usual type, the kind in which a prospective employer flatters a prospective employee by classing as "professional" the services of a typewriter or of a companion to an elderly gentleman who resides within easy distance of an important provincial town.

One advertisement, however, stood out from the rest on account of the peculiar requirements set forth in its terse appeal. It ran something after this fashion: "Wanted, an intelligent man of about middle age, widely read, widely traveled, a good sailor, as companion-secretary to a gentleman. Must be prepared to live abroad. Good salary. Apply, etc."

My curiosity was aroused; and at first sight I appeared to meet the requirements in a reasonable measure. I had certainly traveled widely, and I was an excellent sailor--excellent to the point of offensiveness. Upon an unfavorable construction I could claim to be middle-aged at forty; and I was prepared to live abroad in the unlikely event of any one fixing upon a country which could be properly called "abroad" from the standpoint of a man who had not spent twelve consecutive months in any place since he was fifteen years old.

As for intelligence, I reflected that for ninety-nine people out of a hundred intelligence in others means no more than the discovery of a person who is in intellectual acquiescence with themselves, and that if the necessity arose I could probably affect an acquiescence which would serve all the purposes of a fundamental identity of convictions.

Two things, however, suggested possible difficulties, the questions of what interpretations the advertiser placed upon the terms "widely read" and "good salary." I could not claim to be widely read in any conventional sense, for I was not a university graduate, and the very extensive reading I had done in my special line of study--the control and development of tropical dependencies--though it might entitle me to some consideration as a student in that field had left me woefully ignorant of general literature. Would the ability to discuss with intelligence the Bengal Regulation of 1818, or the British Guiana Immigration Ordinance of 1891 be welcomed as a set-off to a complete unfamiliarity with Milton's "Comus" and Gladstone's essay on the epithets of motion in Homer?

On the subject of what constituted a "good salary" experience had taught me to expect a very wide divergence of view, not only along the natural line of cleavage between the person paying and the person receiving the salary, but also between one employer and another and between one employee and another; and I recalled a story, told me in my infancy, in which a certain British laboring man had been heard to remark that he would not be the Czar of Russia, no, not for thirty shillings a week. But that element in the situation might, I reflected, very well be left to take care of itself.

I finished my lunch, and then replied to the advertisement, giving my English address. My letter, a composition bred of the conflicting influences of pride, modesty, prudence, and curiosity, brought forth in due course a brief reply in which I was bidden to an interview in that part of London where fashion and business prosperity seek to ape each other.

Upon presenting myself at the appointed hour I was confronted by a gentleman whose severity of manner I learned later to recognize as the useful mask to a singularly genial and kindly nature.

Our interview was long and, to me at any rate, rather embarrassing, since it resolved itself into a searching cross-examination by a past- master in the art. Who were my parents? When and where had I been born? Where had I been educated? What were my means of livelihood? What positions had I filled since I went out into the world? What countries had I visited? What books had I read? What books had I written? To what magazines and reviews had I contributed? Who were my friends? Was I fond of music, of painting, of the drama? Had I a sense of humor? Had I a good temper or a good control of a bad one? What languages could I speak or read? Did I enjoy good health? Was I of a nervous disposition? Had I tact and discretion? Was I a good horseman, a good sailor, a good talker, a good reader?

When it came to asking me whether I was a good horseman AND a good sailor, I realized that anyone who expected to find these two qualities

An Adventure With A Genius - 1/21

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