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- An Adventure With A Genius - 6/21 -


actual reading, the other portions being dealt with conversationally, everything being boiled down to its essence before it reached Mr. Pulitzer's ear.

As it was getting late, and as I knew that Thwaites would be on tap early in the morning, for J. P. usually breakfasted before nine, and the "victim" was supposed to have had his own breakfast by eight, I left the villa and went back to the yacht.

As he said good-night, Thwaites gave me a copy of The Daily Telegraph and advised me to read it carefully, as J. P. might ask me for the day's news during the drive we were to take the following morning.

Before going to sleep I glanced through The Daily Telegraph and came across an article which gave me an idea for establishing my reputation for memory. It was a note about the death duties which had been collected in England during 1910, and it gave a list of about twenty estates on which large sums had been paid. The list included the names of the deceased and also the amounts on which probate duty had been paid. I decided to commit these names and figures to memory and to take an occasion the next day to reel them off to J. P.

Punctually at eleven o'clock I presented myself at the villa to find, to my dismay, J. P. seated in his automobile in a towering rage. What sort of consideration had I for him to keep him waiting for half an hour!

I protested that eleven o'clock was the hour of the appointment. I was absolutely wrong, he said, half-past-ten was the time, and he remembered perfectly naming that hour, because he wanted a long drive and he had an engagement with Mr. Paterson at noon.

"I'm awfully sorry," I began, "if I misunderstood you, but really..."

He dismissed the matter abruptly by saying, "For God's sake, don't argue about it. Get in and sit next to me so that I can hear you talk."

As soon as we had got clear of the village, and were spinning along at a good rate on the Corniche road, which circles the Bay of Monaco, high on the mountain side, Mr. Pulitzer began to put me through my paces.

"Now, Mr. Ireland," he began, "you will understand that if any arrangement is to be concluded between us I must explore your brain, your character, your tastes, your sympathies, your prejudices, your temper; I must find out if you have tact, patience, a sense of humor, the gift of condensing information, and, above all, a respect, a love, a passion for accuracy."

I began to speak, but he interrupted me before I had got six words out of my mouth.

"Wait! Wait!" he cried, "let me finish what I have to say. You'll find this business of being a candidate a very trying and disagreeable one; well, it's damned disagreeable to me, too. What I need is rest, repose, quiet, routine, understanding, sympathy, friendship, yes, my God! the friendship of those around me. Mr. Ireland, I can do much, I can do everything for a man who will be my friend. I can give him power, I can give him wealth, I can give him reputation, the power, the wealth, the reputation which come to a man who speaks to a million people a day in the columns of a great paper. But how am I to do this? I am blind, I'm an invalid; how am I to know whom I can trust? I don't mean in money matters; money's nothing to me; it can do nothing for me; I mean morally, intellectually. I've had scores of people pass through my hands in the last fifteen years--Englishmen, Scotchmen, Irishmen, Welshmen, Germans, Frenchmen, Americans, men of so-called high family, men of humble birth, men from a dozen universities, self-taught men, young men, old men, and, my God! what have I found? Arrogance, stupidity, ingratitude, loose thinking, conceit, ignorance, laziness, indifference; absence of tact, discretion, courtesy, manners, consideration, sympathy, devotion; no knowledge, no wisdom, no intelligence, no observation, no memory, no insight, no understanding. My God! I can hardly believe my own experience when I think of it."

Set down in cold print, this outburst loses almost every trace of its intensely dramatic character. Mr. Pulitzer spoke as though he were declaiming a part in a highly emotional play. At times he turned toward me, his clenched fists raised above his shoulders, at times he threw back his head, flung his outstretched hands at arms' length in front of him, as though he were appealing to the earth, to the sea, to the air, to the remote canopy of the sky to hear his denunciation of man's inefficiency; at times he paused, laid a hand on my arm, and fixed his eye upon me as if he expected the darkness to yield him some image of my thought. It was almost impossible to believe at such a moment that he was totally blind, that he could not distinguish night from day.

"Mind!" he continued, raising a cautionary finger, "I'm not making any criticism of my present staff; you may consider yourself very lucky if I find you to have a quarter of the good qualities which any one of them has; and let me tell you that while you are with me you will do well to observe these gentlemen and to try and model yourself on them.

"However, all that doesn't matter so much in your case, because there's no question of your becoming one of my personal staff. I haven't any vacancy at present, and I don't foresee any. What I want you for is something quite different."

Imagine my amazement. No vacancy on the staff! What about the advertisement I had answered? What about all the interviews and correspondence, in which a companionship had been the only thing discussed? What could the totally different thing be of which Mr. Pulitzer spoke?

In the midst of my confusion Mr. Pulitzer said, "Look out of the window and tell me what you see. Remember that I am blind, and try and make me get a mental picture of everything--everything, you understand; never think that anything is too small or insignificant to be of interest to me; you can't tell what may interest me; always describe everything with the greatest minuteness, every cloud in the sky, every shadow on the hillside, every tree, every house, every dress, every wrinkle on a face, everything, everything!"

I did my best, and he appeared to be pleased; but before I had half exhausted the details of the magnificent scene above and below us he stopped me suddenly with a request that I should tell him exactly what had occurred from the time I had answered his advertisement up to the moment of my arrival at the villa.

This demand placed me in rather an awkward predicament, for I had to try and reconcile the fact that the advertisement itself as well as all my conversations with his agents and with his son had been directed toward the idea of a companionship, with his positive assertion that there was no vacancy on his personal staff and that he wanted me for another, and an undisclosed purpose. Here was a very clear opportunity for destroying my reputation, either for tact or for accuracy.

There was, of course, only one thing to do, and that was to tell him exactly what had taken place. This I did, and at the end of my recital he said, "It's simply amazing how anyone can get a matter tangled up the way you have. There was never a question of your becoming one of my companions. What I want is a man to go out to the Philippines and write a series of vigorous articles showing the bungle we've made of that business, and paving the way for an agitation in favor of giving the Islands their independence. There'll be a chance of getting that done if we elect a Democratic President in 1912."

"Well, sir," I replied, "if the bungle has been as bad as you think I certainly ought to be able to do the work to your satisfaction. I'm pretty familiar with the conditions of tropical life, I've written a good deal on the subject, I've been in the Philippines and have published a book and a number of articles about them, and, although I don't take as gloomy a view as you do about the administration out there, I found a good deal to criticize, and if I go out I can certainly describe the conditions as they are now, and your editorial writers can put my articles to whatever use they may wish."

"You're going too fast," he said, "and you're altogether too cock-sure of your abilities. You mustn't think that because you've written articles for the London Times you are competent to write for The World. It's a very different matter. The American people want something terse, forcible, picturesque, striking, something that will arrest their attention, enlist their sympathy, arouse their indignation, stimulate their imagination, convince their reason, awaken their conscience. Why should I accept you at your own estimate? You don't realize the responsibility I have in this matter. The World isn't like your Times, with its forty or fifty thousand educated readers. It's read by, well, say a million people a day; and it's my duty to see that they get the truth; but that's not enough, I've got to put it before them briefly so that they will read it, clearly so that they will understand it, forcibly so that they will appreciate it, picturesquely so that they will remember it, and, above all, accurately so that they may be wisely guided by its light. And you come to me, and before you've been here a day you ask me to entrust you with an important mission which concerns the integrity of my paper, the conscience of my readers, the policy of my country, no, my God! you're too cock-sure of yourself."

By this time Mr. Pulitzer had worked himself up into a state of painful excitement. His forehead was damp with perspiration, he clasped and unclasped his hands, his voice became louder and higher-pitched from moment to moment; but when he suddenly stopped speaking he calmed down instantly.

"You shouldn't let me talk so much," he said, without, however, suggesting any means by which I could stop him. "What time is it? Are we nearly home? Well, Mr. Ireland, I'll let you off for the afternoon; go and enjoy yourself and forget all about me." Then, as the auto drew up at the door of the villa, "Come up to dinner about seven and try to be amusing. You did very well last night. I hope you can keep it up. It's most important that anyone who is to live with me should have a sense of humor. I'd be glad to keep a man and pay him a handsome salary if he would make me laugh once a day. Well, good-by till to-night."

CHAPTER III

LIFE AT CAP MARTIN

There was no lack of humor in Mr. Pulitzer's suggestion that I should go and enjoy myself and forget him. I went down to the yacht, had lunch in solitary state, and then, selecting a comfortable chair in the smoking- room, settled down to think things over.

It soon became clear to me that J. P. was a man of a character so completely outside the range of my experience that any skill of judgment I might have acquired through contact with many men of many races would avail me little in my intercourse with him.

That he was arbitrary, self-centered, and exacting mattered little to me; it was a combination of qualities which rumor had led me to expect


An Adventure With A Genius - 6/21

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