Alfred Henry Lewis
Vol. I NEW YORK, MAY 28, 1902 Part 2
"Sir Oliver, we
live in a dammed
wicked world, and
the fewer we praise
—Sir Peter Teazle.
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THE CASUAL CLUB
Tammany and Its Missing Funds—
Mr. Nixon and his Failure—Mr.
Carroll's Troubles with Mr. Croker—
Gone for Good
No Time Like To-Day
AS YOU LIKE IT Fielders
Who Loves a Lord?—Killing for
Futurity—Mistake in Vocation—Foreign
Devils Again—Heaven or Hell—Adam
a Myth—Hurrah for
Judgment—Champagne and "Champagne"
THE PLAY Jaques
COMMENT Betty Stair
DRIFT OF THE DAY Skirving
THAT SMUGGLED SILK By the Old Lobbyist
Copyrighted by The Observer Publishing Co., 1902
The Observer Publishing Company
Mercantile Library Building
Astor Place, New York City
Vol. I MAY 28, 1902 Part 2
The Casual Club
On last Thursday evening the Casual
Club was gathered about a corner
table in Sherry's. The great room
was beautiful, the music brilliant,
the setting and table appointments
magnificent, and the dinner all that might be
asked. There came but one thing to grieve
the tempers of our members—the service was
slip-shod, inattentive, vile. One wonders
that so splendid an arrangement should be
left unguarded in the most important particular
of service; that Sherry, when he has
done so much, should permit himself to be
foiled of a last result by an idle carelessness
of waiters, who if they do not forget one's
orders outright, execute them with all imaginable
sloth. They attend on guests as though
the latter were pensioners, and are listless in
everything save a collection of the gratuity,
personal to themselves, which their avarice
and a public's weakness have educated them
Clams had occurred, and while we were discussing
these small sea-monsters, Fatfloat
broke suddenly forth. "I don't know if it be
a subject for self-gratulation or no, but I observed
that the daily papers took quick note
of my statement that Tammany Hall was
looted of its last shilling. For the guidance
of these energetic folk of ink and types, I will
unfold a further huddle of details. Instead of
nine hundred thousand dollars, there were
more than one million collected for the Tammany
campaign. No one can show where so
much as two hundred thousand dollars were
honestly disbursed. Let me tell a story; it
may suggest an idea to our diligent friends of
the Dailies. There is a rotund, porpoise-shaped
globular gentleman known of these
parts as 'Bim the Button Man.' This personage
went into the printing business at the beginning
of the late campaign and went out of
it—like blowing out a candle—at the close.
Bim the Button Man, for his brief parade as
a printer, took a partner. Or perhaps the
partner took Mr. Bim. The partner was and
is a doughty 'leader.' It was the new-made
firm of 'Bim' that flourished in the production
of those posters and lithographs of Mr. Shepard
which for so long disfigured the town.
Mr. Mitchell, printer, complained bitterly over
this invasion of his rights by Mr. Bim. The
latter snapped pudgy fingers at the querulous
Mr. Mitchell by virtue of his powerful partner.
Who was Mr. Bim's partner? One year before
when Mr. Mitchell's bill was seven thousand
dollars, Mr. Croker, being in a frugal
mood, felt excessively pained. Why then
should it mount last autumn to three hundred
thousand dollars and excite neither grief nor
reproach? And what was got for those three
hundred thousand dollars? When a show
leaves New York, it carries posters wherewith
to embellish each fence and bill board in the
land; and yet no show ever paid more than
ten thousand dollars for paper. Five thousand
dollars will cover every possible coign of
bill-sticking advantage and hang, besides, a
lithograph of Mr. Shepard in every window
in the city of New York. Then wherefore
those three hundred thousand dollars of Tammany?
There be folk on the finance committee
who should go into this business with a
lantern. The most hopeful name of these is
Mr. McDonald, our great subway contractor
and partner of Mr. August Belmont; he is a
member of that committee. He is, too, a
gentleman of intelligence, business habits and
high worth. Mr. McDonald of the subway,
for his own credit and that of Mr. Belmont,
his partner, should never sleep until he turned
out the bottom facts of that Tammany treasure
which has disappeared. Nor should a common
interest with Mr. Croker and certain of
that gentleman's retainers in the Port Chester
railway deter him. Is there no honest man in
It was at the close of the repast and when
cigars were smokily going that Vacuum returned
to the subject of Tammany Hall.
"Let me congratulate you, my dear Enfield,"
observed Vacuum courteously, "on your
genius for prophecy. At our last meeting, you
foretold the near overthrow of Mr. Nixon and
the Croker regime. The papers inform me
that all came to pass within the two days
following your warning."
"Yes," said Lemon sarcastically, taking the
words from Enfield, "we have been visited
with that fell calamity, the collapse of Mr.
Croker and his rule. We have seen the black
last of him, and the very name of Croker already
begins to be a memory. But why should
one repine?" Lemon's sneer was deepening.
"In every age the other great have come and
ruled and gone to that oblivion beyond.
They arose to fall and be forgot. It is the
law. Then why not Mr. Croker? True, even
while we consent, there comes that natural
sadness which I now observe to sparkle so
brightly in every present eye. What then?
We console ourselves as did Chief Justice
Crewe full two centuries and a half ago when
the decadence of De Vere claimed consideration.
'I have labored,' quoth Crewe, who if
that be possible was more moved over the
waning of De Vere than am I concerning the
passing of Mr. Croker, 'I have labored to make
a covenant with myself that affection may not
press upon judgment; for I suppose there is
no man that hath any apprehension of gentry
or nobleness but his affection stands to the
continuance of a house so illustrious and would
take hold on a twig or a twinethread to support
it. And yet Time hath his revolutions;
there must be a period and an end to all temporal
things—finis rerum—an end of names
and dignities and whatsoever is terrene; and
why not of De Vere? For where is Bohun?
where is Mowbray? where is Mortimer? nay,
which is more and most of all, where is Plantagenet?
They are entombed in the urns and
sepulchres of mortality!' And, as it was of
that ancient day of Crewe and the De Vere
so must it be of us and Mr. Croker. He
goes; we stay; and so let us drink to all."
Here Lemon filled his glass, and the rest having
amiably followed his example, offered
with a wicked twinkle, "The disappearance of
"What I regret in the business," remarked
Fatfloat as he put down his glass, "is the ill
fortune of Mr. Nixon. There is much of good
honesty about that gentleman; he is high-minded
and proud; I cannot but sympathize
with him in his present plight."
"And yet," observed Enfield, mildly, "Mr.
Nixon should have avoided that trap of an
empty leadership. Mr. Nixon is no stripling;
he knew Tammany and those elements of
mendacity and muddy intrigue which are
called its 'control'; he knew Mr. Croker, who
in these last days was faithful to no promise
and loyal to no man. Why did he permit
himself to be flattered, cozened and destroyed?
Why? He added inexperience to vanity and
betrayed himself. It was the old story—the
conference of that leadership on Mr. Nixon—the
old story of the Wolf and Little Red Riding
Hood, with Mr. Croker as Wolf and Mr. Nixon
the innocent who was eaten up. No, no; he
might have better guided himself. Mr. Nixon—were
all about the friendliest—was still unfit
for the place. It was like putting a horse in
a tree-top; it gave the horse no grace nor
glory and offered a sole assurance of his finally
"Isn't Mr. Nixon himself an honest man?"
asked Van Addle.
"Were it to be merely a question of honesty,"
replied Enfield, "Mr. Nixon would
make perfect answer. Broadly, he is an honest
man. But that, politically, is all. And
there be enterprises, such as Tammany Hall
and the Stock Market, wherein to be merely
honest is not a complete equipment. Moreover,
in this business of his so-called 'leadership,'
Mr. Nixon might have carried himself
with a more sensitive integrity and been
bettered vastly thereby. You will recall that
when Mr. Nixon performed as chairman of the
Tammany anti-vice committee, he discovered
in its entire membership that combine of
blackmail and extortion which, standing at
the head of Tammany and doing its foul work
through the police, fostered crime in the community
for a round return of four millions a
year. Mr. Nixon called these evil folk by
name and pointed to them. He could still
relate that roll and never miss an individual.
And if he did not put actual hand on the sly
presiding genius, I warrant you he might, were
he so inclined, indite a letter to him and get
the address right."
"And the postage would be five cents," interjected
"With this knowledge," continued Enfield
without heeding Lemon's interruption, "and
with his record as a foe of corruption, Mr.
Nixon, had he been wise as a captain, or true
to himself as a man, would have called about
him the cleaner elements. He would have reminded
them of the people's verdict of November
and told them plainly that the rogues
must go. He should have been loyal to himself.
He should have made the issue against
the corruptionists; he should have waged
prompt and bitter war, and either destroyed
them or died like a soldier high up on the
ramparts. Mr. Nixon would have then become
a martyr or a hero; and between the
two there after all goes flowing no mighty
difference. A martyr is a hero who failed; a
hero is a martyr who succeeded; both gain
the veneration of a people, and die or live
secure of self-respect. Mr. Nixon should have
uplifted the standards of a new crusade against
that handful of great robbers who, making
Tammany their stronghold, issued forth to a
rapine of the town. Nor, had he done so,
would he have fallen in the battle. As I have
already said, nineteen of every Tammany
twenty would have come round him for that
fight. He would have conquered a true leadership
and advanced a public interest while
upbuilding his party. Mr. Nixon, however,
failed tamely in the very arms of opportunity.
He kept to the same ignoble counsel that had
so wrought disrepute for Mr. Croker. And,
afar from thoughts of assailing those who had
dragged Tammany Hall through mire to
achieve their villain ends, he went openly into
their districts, commended them to the voters,
hailed them as his friends and urged their retention
in the executive board. Is it marvel,
then, that Mr. Nixon as a 'leader' took no
root? or that by the earliest gust of opposition
he was overblown? It could not have come
otherwise; he fairly threw himself beneath the
wheels of Fate."
"As to the future of Tammany Hall," said
Vacuum, "will Mr. Croker make further effort
to dominate it and send it orders from
"Undoubtedly," returned Enfield, to whom
the query was put, "Mr. Croker will strive in
all ways to prolong himself. It is with him
both a matter of money and a matter of pride.
But he will fail; his whilom follower, Mr. Carroll,
is too powerful. Mr. Carroll is in possession
and will yield only to Mr. Martin,—that
inveterate foe of Mr. Croker."
"Do you know why Mr. Croker attacked Mr.
Carroll just before he left?" asked Vacuum
"and ordered his destruction? One morning,
he was taken by Mr. Fox to view Mr. Carroll's
building operations near Fifth Avenue in Fifty-seventh
Street. Mr. Fox called attention to
the grandeur of Mr. Carroll's plans. The workmen
were tearing down a house to make
room for Mr. Carroll's coming palace. Mr.
Croker gazed for full ten minutes in wordless,
moody gloom. Then turning to the sympathetic
Mr. Fox he broke forth: 'What do you
think of that? He's tearing down a better
house than mine!' From that moment Mr.
Croker went about the tearing down of Mr.
"I had not supposed him so small," said Fatfloat,
"as to feel piqued because Mr. Carroll
would build a better house than his own."
"He didn't feel piqued," said Lemon; "he felt
plundered, and doubtless asked a question concerning
Mr. Carroll that has been so often
asked about himself."
"And yet," observed Van Addle, appealing
to Enfield, "I should love prodigiously to hear
your views on the situation in Tammany as it
stands. I confess both an ignorance and a
curiosity for light."
"And I am sure, my dear Van Addle," returned
Enfield, "you are heartily welcome to aught
I may know or believe on the subject. A
great noble of Rome observed that to direct
a wanderer aright was like lighting another
man's candle with one's own; it assisted the
fortunes of the beneficiary without subtracting
from the estate of the Samaritan. For myself,
I need neither the Roman argument nor the
Roman example to create within me a benevolent
willingness to hang a lantern in the tower
of truth for the guidance of any gentleman
now groping as to the actual status of Mr.
Croker with Tammany Hall.
"It requires no word to those initiate to convince
them that Mr. Croker no longer sits on
the throne, and that his potentialities are forever
departed away. For myself, grown too
indolent for an interest in aught beyond the
sentimentalities of politics, I sorrow that this
is so. Indifference is ever conservative and
hesitates at change; and, speaking for what
is within myself and not at all perhaps for
that which is best for the public, I would have
preferred a continuation of the Croker dynasty.
As it is, good sooth! Mr. Croker is
destroyed. And your ruin, of whatever character,
the resort of owls, the habitat of bats,
and all across it flung the melancholy ivy—that
verdant banner of victorious decay!—is,
at its loveliest, but a spectacle of depression;
and one who has witnessed Mr. Croker in his
vigor must be at least dimly affected as he
beholds him take his sad and passive place
with those who were. Mr. Croker is not to be
blamed as the architect of his overthrow.
With what lights that shone, his conduct was
prudent enough; and his dethronement is to
be charged to destiny—to kismet, rather than
to any gate-opening carelessness on the purblind
part of himself. 'Prudentia fato major,'
said the Florentine. But the Medici was
wrong, and before Death bandaged his eyes for
eternity it was given him to see that Destiny,
for all his caution and for all his craft, had
fed his hopes to defeat. And yet, while Mr.
Croker may not be charged as the reason of
his own removal, some consideration of causes
that incited it should have a merit and an
interest. It is one vessel crashing on a reef
that points a danger, and makes for the safety
of every ship that follows, and the story of
a wrecked and drowned dictatorship cannot
fail to instruct ambition in whatever
"Following the last presidential campaign,
Mr. Croker sailed Englandward to repose himself
from his labors. For ten months did he
rest, recuperate, restrengthen and restore himself.
And when he departed, albeit he may
have had no suspicion of that fact, Mr. Croker
left his chieftaincy behind. That was to happen
in the nature of things, and Mr. Croker
would have foreseen it had he been a true
scientist of supremacy. Remember it, all ye
kings and princes and potentates among men!
a crown will never travel, a scepter cannot
leave the realm, and there are no wheels on a
throne. Mr. Croker was not aware of these
cardinal truths of kingcraft when he sailed
away; the knowledge became his at a time too
late to have a value beyond the speculative.
Mr. Croker left the garments of his leadership
behind him and eighteen of the 'leaders' appropriated
them with a plot. They caught
their chief in bathing and they stole his clothes.
"Mr. Croker was home ten days before he
missed his leadership, and even then he was
made aware of its spoliation only by beholding
it in the hands of the cabal. Mr. Croker meant
Mr. Nixon for the mayoralty; but the plotting
eighteen, intriguing with Brooklyn blocked
the way with Mr. Coler. The coalition was
too strong for Mr. Croker to force, and the
logic of that same word pressed to a conflict
meant his destruction in the city convention.
"'When the lion's skin is too short,' said Lysander,
'we piece it out with the fox's,' and
while the Greeks thought this sentiment unbecoming
a descendant of Hercules, they
were fain to acquiesce in its practice when
met by a peril too strong for their spears.
Mr. Croker remembered Lysander; and, being
thus hedged and hemmed about, sought
safety by nominating Mr. Shepard. There
need be no mistake; Mr. Shepard was not a
candidate, he was a refuge. And such a refuge
as is Scylla when one is threatened of Charybdis.
"When Mr. Croker seized on Mr. Shepard,
he defeated the Coler plot, but made no
safety for his leadership. He succeeded
only in losing the latter in a fashion less harrowing
to his vanity, less obnoxious to his
self-respect. It was the old Roman at the
last, who, preferring suicide to capture,
throws himself on his own sword.
"Study the situation as Mr. Croker studied it,
following the city convention; it will aid to
an understanding of what has happened
since, and tell the story of his lost leadership.
Following Mr. Shepard's nomination there
lived no Croker hope. With either Mr.
Shepard or Mr. Low elected, Tammany
would dwindle—as one now beholds it—to
be a third-rate influence. The autocracy of
Mr. Croker would disappear. At the best, he
might beg where he had once commanded,
with every prospect of being denied. Mr.
Croker, in alarm for his pride, decided that
his sole chance to quit with credit was to quit
at once, and on that thought he acted. Following
the naming of Mr. Shepard he treated
with the plotters and abandoned to them half
his dominion. It was they, and not Mr. Croker,
who determined the personnel of the late
county and borough tickets; one has but to remember
the folk who were named, and recall
those who were not, to know that this is true.
But bad fortune overtook Mr. Croker and the
eighteen who then held him in partial thrall.
The city ticket of the one, and the county and
borough tickets of the others, were beaten."
"They were, of a hopeful verity!" interrupted
Fatfloat. "They were beaten as flat as a
field of turnips! And it was in high good
time, too. Had Tammany retained the city,
before 1904 the outlaws would have stolen
everything but the back fence."
"They did not keep the city, however," continued
Enfield, "and being defeated, Mr.
Croker developed with much speed an eagerness
for England. I do not blame him;
while outwardly respectful, the leading folk
of his circle were cheerless and cold, for to be
beaten is to be hated in Tammany Hall.
And so he made pretense of abdication and
Mr. Nixon appeared in his place. The sequel
of that ill-fortuned substitution is known.
"Mr. Croker will continue still to hold what
Tammany territory he may. He has money
interests to protect. And yet, strive and
plot and battle as best he can, it is too late.
His day is over and his power lost. He will
win such consideration and no more, as Mr.
Carroll and the others grant.
"It is to be doubted if Mr. Croker realizes
how prone and dead he is. One knows when
one is wounded, but one knows not when one
is killed. Some near day, or some far day,
Mr. Croker will seek to return. Then, and
not until that time, will he comprehend the
palsy that has stricken his supremacy. Mr.
Croker will return only to be denied. And
that, too, will be as it should; for even a
Napoleon comes back but once to France."
No Time Like To-Day
Gather ye rose-buds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles to-day,
To-morrow will be dying.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.
As You Like It
Who Loves a Lord?
The London newspapers give
one the impression that a
number of English people will
attend the coronation ceremonies.
It is evident that the
editors of these newspapers do not read journals
which are printed in New York and other
Killing for Futurity
When Balmascheff, who shot
and killed M. Sipiaguine,
Russia's Minister of the Interior,
was asked if he had
accomplices he replied: "So
many that it is impossible to name them."
He also said that he nor they expected grace
or mercy; that he and they worked for those
who came after. Some will call this the
raving of an anarchist. But these know
nothing of the conditions against which
Balmascheff and his kind are warring. The
Balmascheffs would prefer to gain their ends
by peaceful means, but know from experience
that life is too short for success. They
do not kill for love of killing, or the notoriety
that attaches to it, but that the lot of those
whose cause they champion may be made
merely endurable. Whenever the law is
wilfully and successfully disregarded that a
minority may be favored there will be found
a means by which this dereliction is brought
to the attention not only of the lawbreakers,
but of the world, and as the latter, in all its
divisions, contains lawbreakers who consider
themselves above or beyond the law the
punishment of one is usually followed by the
punishment of others, for lawbreakers of a
colossal type—like their executioners—think
in common and recognize no cleavage of
nationality. Balmascheff may not have killed
the system which was represented by M.
Sipiaguine, but he chopped away a limb.
Unless the trunk is replaced by one that better
befits the age it, too, will be chopped away.
If this be an age of reason, as is claimed for it,
men who are furnished with a capacity to
think cannot be prevented from putting
their thoughts into execution. Though Balmascheff
was executed on Friday according to
biblical and Russian law, there are many Balmascheffs
in the world, and it is well for the
world that this is so.
Mistake in Vocation
A woman writer who considers
herself a Realist says
in a story published recently:
"I found a letter in my mail
and read it as I prepared my
morning coffee." This is an impossible feat.
She may have prepared the coffee and then
read the letter, or read the letter and then
prepared the coffee, but she did not do both
simultaneously unless she were, not a realist,
but an acrobat.
Foreign Devils Again
Among the many reforms
foisted upon China by the
Powers is a college. At the
head of this college is a Foreign
Devil and among its professors
are six Foreign Devils. The court of
last resort, however, is the Governor of Shantung,
who is a native of China. He, quite
recently, filled the Foreign Devils with indignation
because he expelled from the college
a student who refused to subscribe to
the teachings of Confucius, who was a wise
as well as a learned man. The Foreign
Devils transferred some of their indignation
to Mr. Conger, the United States Minister,
who "warned the Throne against infractions
of the treaties in respect to the freedom of the
Chinese to practice Christianity." This warning
probably filled the Throne with even
more and hotter indignation than that which
seethed in the Foreign Devils. Why should
Mr. Conger not follow the custom of his own
country and permit every religion to take
care of itself? Here is a case in point. A
Mr. Noll applied for a license to preach and it
was denied to him by a Theological Seminary
of the Presbyterian brand because he refused
to believe in the personality of Adam.
He would not have carried his case to the
President even if he had not died. It has
been asserted by a Minister of another denomination
that Noll was murdered, not in
the orthodox way, but simply because he
was refused a license to preach. If the murder
theory be not untenable Noll was not of
the stuff of which martyrs are made, and as
all Preachers hold that they are made of this
stuff Noll conferred a favor upon the profession
by dying of consumption.
Heaven or Hell
Even before Noll died a
number of Presbyterian
Preachers had announced
that they considered Adam,
Moses, Jonah and other personages
of Note in Bible literature as Myths.
With rare exceptions, there is about as little
initiative in Professional Preachers as there is
in Professional Pugilists, and the last sect of
which one might have expected such iconoclastic
utterances is that which claims Calvin
and John Knox as its shining lights. I remember,
as a small boy, feeling sorry for a
chum because, as a Presbyterian, he did not
know and had no means of finding out whether
he had been born to go to Heaven or Hell,
and in those days both of those resorts were
spelled with capitals and pronounced with
awe. Had he been able by a most rigorous
observance of all the rules laid down by God
and Man to make certain of living in a future
state of beatitude I would have felt sorry for
him still, as he would be compelled, of necessity,
to miss many of the joys of this world;
still his future then—though in a hard and
grinding measure—would have lain in his
own hands. But whether he became a Pirate
or a Preacher was all one; he had been born
to go to Heaven or Hell and nothing that
he could do could enable him to change his
final destination. In later life he, evidently,
appreciated this, for he became a Stock-Broker,
after, as a Preacher, having broken
most of the Commandments and fractured
the rest. Had the Dominie of the flock of
which he was a member expressed a doubt of
the existence, some years ago, of Adam,
Moses or Jonah, but particularly Adam, he
would have saved my friend from much
mental and some physical distress.
Adam a Myth
When a hide-bound, moss-grown
bigot begets doubts
and then removes them, he is
like a bull in a china shop and
wants to break everything in
sight, not through an innate love of destruction,
but because he has lost his rope and is too
delirious to find the corral. This throwing
overboard of Adam so suddenly and without
any recently discovered evidence upon his personality
or lack of it, comes in the nature of a
shock. The act has been perpetrated after
the fashion of Captain Kidd in his worst days.
It shows a complete lack of even a faint acquaintance
with the small amenities that
help to smooth the ruts in social intercourse
to not only order a personage of Adam's standing
and reputation to "walk the plank," but
to push him off. Besides, it shows an utter
disregard for the feelings of that large body of
people who do not think, to wipe out, at one
fell wipe, the whole scheme of creation without
substituting another. If there were no Adam
there could not have been a Garden of Eden
or an Eve. And what about the Apple and
the Serpent and a lot of other picturesque details?
Personally, I intend to stick to my
belief in Adam, not because I ever had a high
opinion of him, but because I have met a number
of men who remind me of him—men who
always throw the blame on the woman; also
because I have seen several spots that would
make an admirable Eden. Besides, there is
something in the story of what happened in
the Garden that rings true; not that all women
would adopt Eve's bold method, but much
may be forgiven a woman who had no mother
or maiden aunt to play duenna, and who lived
before either was fashionable, or, according to
the story, necessary.
Hurrah for Noah
But these reverend gentlemen
must not go too far. One
may regret Adam, and his extinction
may start fissures in
many genealogical trees, but
to such of us as only "came over in the Mayflower,"
or "with the Conqueror," his flop into
oblivion may entail no serious damage to
existing rights. Upon Moses I always looked
as a person of doubtful parentage, and a
leader who, had he lived in recent centuries,
would have been sacrificed by his own men
within a month at most. His only title to
fame is that he kept the Jews for forty years
from appropriating anything but a desert
which nobody else wanted and was a blistering
hindrance to them. The story of Moses certainly
has weak spots. Too much is known
of the localities which he frequented. The
crossing of the Red Sea without even getting
his boots full of water seems too lurid an accomplishment
for a pedestrian who consumed
forty years in reaching the confines of an
ordinary desert. His disappearance will cause
but little clamor. Then there is Jonah. Those
who know the sea, or have a passing acquaintance
with fish, place no reliance upon
the Jonah-whale story. Jonah will not be
missed greatly. But I must insist upon the
preservation of Noah. In him are we all—no
creed nor color barred—indebted for our
first striking and imperfect impressions of the
animal kingdom. No liar could have invented
the story of the flood. It is of too wholesale
a character for pure invention, and the
few details which accompany it wear an air of
truth. Unless it were founded upon fact,
could manufacturers all over the world have
been induced to strengthen it and put money
in their purse by turning out, annually, not
millions but trillions of Noah's arks? Once
shake the belief of childhood in the stability
of Noah and ruin will fall upon a great industry,
for machinery which will turn out a
never-ending stream of Noah's arks could not
be driven to turn out anything else. There
is nothing to take the place of Noah's ark, as
there is no one to take the place of Noah. In
other lines trade may follow the flag, but in
the Noah's ark industry it follows a belief in
Noah and is known to every flag that has ever
waved, paying allegiance to no particular
banner. Before these fatiguing divines drive
even a tack into Noah's coffin, let them provide
us with a personage of equal interest and
influence. If they are not permitted to move
further in their scheme of destruction until
they do this, Noah is safe. They can only try
to kill; they cannot create.
Mr. William M. Thomas,
United States Minister to
Sweden, called upon the President
lately and made him
a present of several Swedish razors.
A Washington correspondent at once telegraphed
to his newspaper in New York:
"He selected the razors himself and is a fine
judge of them though he does not use a
razor." If the person who sent this important
dispatch wanted to secure an Old
Master he, doubtless, would hire a canal
boatman to pass judgment upon the painting
before he put his money down.
Champagne and "Champagne"
It is customary for Americans
to think that they get
the best of everything.
There are Americans who
do get the best of everything,
but this is because they know what is
best and are able and willing to pay for it.
But where hoi polloi thinks that it gets the
best of everything it is mistaken. Take
champagne, for instance. "A large bottle on
the ice" is a common order in New York. To
the waiter it means a bottle of champagne.
He may or may not ask if any particular
brand is required: that depends upon the
quality of the hostelry in which he is employed;
also upon the quality of the customer. The
"large bottle" is forthcoming. It contains a
label on which is printed the maker's name.
The cork which comes out of the bottle is,
generally, much larger than the neck into
which it has been forced. It is seldom that
one hears a buyer ask to see the cork. The
average buyer of champagne would not understand
the cork's story. He is accustomed to
large and bulging corks and if he were to see
an attenuated specimen, of dark complexion
and as hard as a piece of vulcanized rubber
he would look at it with great suspicion and,
doubtless, refuse the wine. But an experienced
waiter will know his man and will bring
him the sort of "large bottle" to which he has
been accustomed, though it will not be champagne
that a wine drinker would care to swallow.
Champagne of the "large bottle" variety
is drunk to a larger extent in the United States
than anywhere else; in fact one would not be
far wrong in saying that it is manufactured
for the American market. Generally, the best
champagne is made for England and Russia.
The people of those countries who drink champagne
have made at least a cursory study of it
and are able, at a moment's notice, to name
the best vintages of the last twenty-five or
thirty years. There are Americans who can
do this, too, but they are not of the "large
bottle" or "cold bottle" variety. The latter
are the people who account for the fact that
much more "champagne" is consumed than
is furnished by the vineyards of France.
THOMAS B. FIELDERS.
Drift of the Day
From my station here on the housetop
my gaze wanders out over acres
of roofs—the leaded coverings of
hotels, apartment-houses, and office
buildings. They rear themselves beneath
and around me as the lesser
peaks of the Himalayas seen from Mount Everest.
My eyes ache with the diversity of their
shapes, the eccentricity of their styles, the irregularity
of their altitudes. No man viewing
them can continue blind to the independence of
the American citizen, to the ostentation of his
right of personal selection, to his individual
caprice. They stand, a brick-and-iron commentary
upon the competing ambitions of two
generations of townsmen.
A hulking, twenty-story modernity stands
side by side with a dwarfish, Dutch anachronism,
but neither possesses any right of precedence
over the other. They are equal in the
eyes of the proletary. Classic and nondescript,
marble and brick, granite and iron,
unite to form the most heterogeneous collection
of fashions the earth's surface anywhere
exhibits. Even Milton's blind eyes pictured
nothing so fantastic as this architectural chaos
of Manhattan, so hopeless of eventual order.
And yet are there not lacking signs that the
quaint pot-pourri of whimsicalities will one
day coalesce into a well-defined, artistic composition,
a twentieth century City Beautiful.
God grant its attainment be not unduly protracted!
But it is with the insides of this vast confusion
of buildings I am presently concerned. As
the buildings are, so are the inhabitants—little
and big, tall and short, honestly constructed
and jerry built, old fashioned and up to
date, aping the fashions of a dozen civilizations.
In any one of these great structures
will be found the representatives of a dozen
nations, born to a dozen tongues, yet all conversing
in a common English, covering their
motley nationalities with a common Americanism,
united in their loyalty to the Republic.
In the diversity of its constituents lies
the strength of the American nation.
No European section of the American community
sufficiently preponderates over its fellows
to affect the national sympathy toward
foreign Powers. Irish counteracts English
opinion; German sonship is balanced by the
filial sentiment of the Latin races—the Slavs
and the Russian Jews have no European predilections.
Consequently, American foreign
policy is dictated by Americans for the benefit
of Americans, without reference to the warring
interests in Europe or in Asia. The men who
lead in the United States are men who, for
the most part, have not voyaged beyond the
confines of the United States. All of their
attention upon affairs of State is cast inward
upon their own land, is absolutely self-centred.
The resultant national policy is the most selfish,
but the most formidable in the world of
American and Briton are alike co-heirs to the
common Anglo-Saxon heritage, but they are
brothers who differ as materially in temperament
as in ambition and in creed. The Briton
is daily becoming more cosmopolitan, his outlook
more world-wide. The shadow of the
village pump has departed from his statecraft,
and his political horizon girdles the earth.
But the American remains intensely introspective,
suspicious of foreign influence, interested
solely in his world of the Western
In Britain are Little Englanders who dread
every step the nation makes in outward expansion,
but there are here no Little Americanders.
The Little Englanders doubt the nation's
power to hold the nation's possessions.
Here, in the United States, are men who question
the advisability of penetrating into world
politics, but no man among them has doubt
of the nation's power to keep whatever territory
the Star Spangled Banner once has
floated over. They are merely jealous, jealous
of the absolute isolation of their commonwealth,
quick to resent any remotest possibility
of interference with it.
In every American's ears rings the music of
assured success, the certainty of a rich inheritance
laid up for him and his children's children
in the internal resources of his country.
In many an Englishman's ears sound only the
doleful croakings of the prophets, the sinister
rumblings of approaching doom. Though his
pessimism be in great part born of his climate,
it has had a very real effect upon his statecraft.
It has driven him outward to find hope
and sunshine abroad, in his colonies, and in
India. It has made of the race a nation of expansionists,
reaping where they have not sown,
gathering where they have not strawed.
It is otherwise here with us under a sky that
would make of Job an optimist. All around
are light and color, the evidences of life and
hope. Here the whites are white, and not a
dirty drab. The streets glisten clean in the
sunlight, and every window is a reflector of
glad promise. In London, choked with fog,
and grimy with soot-dust, the Englishman cannot
see the future for smoke, cannot extract a
gleam of hope from the sodden, mud-soaked
thoroughfares. To be sanguine here on my
housetop is to be natural and in harmony with
my surroundings. To be hilarious in the
Strand is to be unnatural, to court detention
in a police cell or a lunatic asylum. There is
a wide gulf separating Sandy Hook from Land's
End, but a still wider between Pennsylvania
Avenue and the Westminster Bridge Road.
And so those who have dreamed of Anglo-American
alliances awake to find themselves
deceived by the very intensity of their desires.
The bloodship between the nations is itself the
surest deterrent of alliance. Just as in the
Church marriage between nigh kinsmen is
forbidden, so political marriage between the
British and American nations can never be.
The United States is possessed of a single idea—the
consolidation and enrichment of the
United States. No interest is permitted to
clash with that paramount national ambition.
To that end all share in the pomp and vanities
of the world is sacrificed; her ambassadors
tolerated, not supported; her Secretary
of State snubbed; her President jealously
watched in all his exchanges of courtesy with
foreign Powers. United States citizens may
be maltreated and murdered in Bulgaria or in
China, the United States will not go to war
on their behalf. Her mission is confined to
the Western Hemisphere, and over its borders
no insult, no cajolery will avail to tempt her.
Within her own sphere her temper is quick,
and her arm strong to avenge. Across the
ocean she is long suffering and slow to anger.
Down here at my feet the American is engaged
in his nation-building somewhat less satisfactorily
than out in the wide world beyond.
A nation compounded of a dozen alien races
may unite on matters of foreign policy, but
in that is no warranty of harmony at home.
Domestic strife is as bitter here as in Germany
or Britain or France. I watch from my
housetop men marching in processions of protest;
I read of strikes; I hear of an infinity
of rude wranglings, of senators battling on the
floor of the forum, of disputes in the sacred
halls of Tammany. Not yet has the Irish
lamb lain down with the Virginian lion.
It were strange were it otherwise in a land
where the city man has destroyed the home.
The American has shown no great genius for
the domestic virtues. He has hauled down the
homes of his ancestors, has builded in their stead
vast apartment-houses and tenement buildings—steam-heated
Towers of Babel. Into
each of these he has packed the population of
a European market-town, has left the children
to grow up on the roofs and staircases, the
babies to find a blessed release through rickety
fire-escapes. When a fit of reform has touched
him, he has stirred up the garbage of the Tenderloin
and the Red Light District, has spread
it broadcast over his cities to poison his wife
and his daughter.
No, the American has still much to learn of
domestic politics. Let him sit with me here
any night on my housetop and he will see the
sad effects of sectarian reform and newspaper
hysteria. He will see the creatures of the
Tenderloin at home on Broadway and Fifth
Avenue where, twelve months ago, their presence
was unknown. He will see the policeman
on the beat neglect the broken lock of
my house door that haply he may learn
something of the doings of his fellow constable.
He will see a whole civil service
turned into a bureau of information, a department
of espionage. He will see the entire
machinery of city government made ineffectual
in the sacred name of Reform.
It was an American who made immortal the
simple phrase: "There's no place like home."
Verily, one must take a long day's journey
from New York ere he discover a place in
any essential comparable with the home of our
childhood's prattle, the home with its mother
and its mother love, its rosy boys and its sweet
faced lasses. That home has been handed
over to the house-breakers, to make way for
modern buildings, for improvements on the
surroundings that made our mothers and our
Sitting here on the housetop, one wonders if
those residential skyscrapers are indeed
rooted in the foul pit of Acheron. If built in
the proportions of the iceberg, they must reach
well into the bowels of Tophet and thence derive
the evil that is in them.
Lady Betty's Comment
In opposition to the familiar precept
of a patriot touching the price and
preciousness of liberty, femininity,
scorning to be free, exults in shackles.
We hesitate over our own taste, and
turn rather to the crowning of some
courageous male, with a liking and a talent
for notoriety. The duties of this gentleman
being irksome and his reward being
ridicule, it is perhaps amazing that we stand
in no nearer danger of lacking a leader for
want of aspirants than does the nation of
begging for a President. Once guided by a
master mind the most exotic may come frankly
forth to meet and struggle with the daily
weariness of dinner giving and dinner eating:
may look towards a triumphant overthrow of
those problems on what forks to use, what
jewels to adopt, what mannerisms to affect
and what fads to uplift. As our persons are
no more sacred than our habits we feel that
our vanity is never safe; and our present
despot, who owns a Turkish taste in femininity,
and insists on the fashionableness of
fat, unhappy is the woman who, like Mrs.
Spottletoe of Chuzzlewit fame, is lean and
dry and errs on the side of slimness.
The dawn of the racing season alters
the bucolic character of the roads leading
to Morris Park and makes them gay
and noisy thoroughfares—conglomerations of
smart traps and rainbow frocks. The drive
to and from the track is the jolliest feature
of a programme that—as is not uncommonly
the case where the mighty are involved—smacks
not a little of sameness. The inevitable
lunch at the club house is occasionally
enlivened by a friendly tiff over the possession
of a piazza table where is offered a
view of the course combined with the comforts
of repletion, and is, in consequence,
considered a vantage point of desirability.
We meet the same people, and we eat of the
same dishes disguised in the same service,
that daily play the routine of our fashion;
for, as Thackeray says of his British, wherever
we may go, we carry with us our pills and
our prejudices. And there be times, too,
when we almost echo those cravings of poor
Becky Sharp who, having attained the summits
of society, cries in the desperation of
her ennui: "Oh, how much gayer it would
be to dance in spangles in a booth!"
That enterprising bachelor, Mr. James
Henry Smith, evinces a nice taste in
matters feminine. His much-to-be-desired
box seat is not infrequently embellished
by the presence of Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt,
who this year shows a preference for the varying
shades of Quaker gray, and was recently
admired in a cloth of that color made with a
plain skirt and a blousing coat with bishop
sleeves. Mrs. Alfred likewise leans modestly
towards the dove and is shown at her best in a
soft pale frock trimmed with passementerie
of the same shade and topped by a large hat
of black chip tipped well towards the right
side. Mrs. Alfred is young enough to ignore
the ravages of a possible embonpoint, but
there be other matrons who hang so uncertainly
about that borderland of beauty that
they somehow manage to convey the hint
that only by an unwinking watchfulness do
they succeed in foiling the onslaughts of his
ogreship of avoirdupois. In their eye lurks
terror and in their lines one spells their secret
of rebellious hunger; of Delsarte, gymnastics
and massage. Sometimes the matron is an
improvement on the maid. But this is not
always true. For those who turn coarse and
harsh with years, we recommend Christian
Science and a less flexible self-denial.
We find it difficult to understand that
lack of sense and taste which led to
the recent criticisms of Mr. Jefferson's
oratory on the Actor's Home occasion. Mr.
Jefferson, happening by mistake to pass over
one of the many names of benefactors, and,
presto! there were a dozen listeners, malice-prompted,
eager to ascribe to this falter of an
old man's memory every meager and jealous
motive. An intricate and, of a necessity, a
somewhat didactic argument, delivered in
the open air, does not become the simplest of
tasks in the hands of an old gentleman who
has turned his back upon the fourscore mark.
He was brave and he was most obliging to undertake
a speech of any character, and now
his payment seems to be in the customary
false, ill-natured coin.
It is said that the late Ward McAllister
shrank with peculiar distaste from the vulgarity
of divorce. If so he is to be congratulated
on passing away before the publication
of his niece's domestic misfits. Mrs. Young
is appallingly frank concerning her wrongs and
the suit threatens to be spicy; although so
far, the name of the actress corespondent
has not been given to the press. It was good
of Mr. McAllister to attempt that separation
of wheat from chaff which at one time rendered
his verdicts of such dread power among
social aspirants; it may be the irony of
mockery that to-day his family are conspicuous
upon only two points. One relative
goes clamorously into the divorce court
while another wins celebration by the showy
style of a bodice.
The gossip who predicted that the wife of
the French ambassador would decline to
be received by the Countess Cassini must
content herself as best she may with the development
of some lesser scandal, for certainly
this last effort has met refutation. Mme.
Cambon dined at the Russian embassy like
the diplomatic woman that she is.
The visit of Miss Roosevelt to Cuba is
said to have been more or less of a failure
speaking from a Latin standpoint. Miss
Roosevelt did not "take" with the Cuban element.
She is uncompromisingly Anglo-Saxon
and lacks that pliability which would endear
her to the children of another race. Cuban
women excel in charm of mannerism and
in their eyes Miss Roosevelt appears unpolished
and uncut. We may like her better
as she is, but it is safe to say that had she
but a few added years of experience there
would have been a more gracious outcome
to her trip. Miss Roosevelt Scovel was recently
dining at Sherry's. She wore an exquisite
white frock but is not herself a pretty
girl though her grace uplifts somewhat her
mediocrity of appearance.
It is the province of brides to be as bedecked
as circumstances permit. Why then does
Mrs. Depew automobile about Washington
in a miserable machine that most people
would refuse to be seen in? Is it humility?
It is not gallant in Chauncey to permit the
lady to appear in such an antiquated rattletrap.
In appearance she is a plain woman;
sensible, gracious and nice. Her position
is a trying one which she supports with tact.
So far she has been guilty of no error of taste
and her manner with her husband is pleasant
without bearing a trace of that silliness
which the Senator's great age encouraged
Washington to expect. No one has yet enjoyed
any spiteful fun at Mrs. Depew's expense
though many were on the qui vive
Idlehours has been duly garnished for
the return of the master, who loves this
home better than the gray pile which
represents the best architectural type on
Fifth Avenue. Mr. Vanderbilt is modestly
conscious of the prestige wrested from Fournier,
and is a cheering illustration of the
soundness of open-air enjoyment.
How often have we read of the monthly
ten thousand dollars which our ambassador
will lavish upon Brook House!
In justice to Mr. Reid it must be owned that he
is simplicity itself, and by no one is it supposed
that either he or Mrs. Reid have part
in the publication of these details. He
showed wisdom in a preference for his own
household over the proffered royal quarters
which would have been assigned him. He is
chosen for his fitness, but were he the veriest
clod the dignity of his position would still
carry with it a sufficient measure of respect.
Our desire to embellish its importance is absurd,
and the hysteria of the dailies is calculated
to place a dignified gentleman in a
ridiculous light. Mrs. Reid's name and cultivation
will doubtless enable her to support
a monotonous role with grace; but, in consideration
of British proficiency in matters
ceremonial, their money will not be called
upon to add a jot to the dignity of their reception.
Their early departure has not
prevented the opening of their country place,
Ophir Hall, in the vicinity of White Plains,
while their neighbor, Colonel Astor, has long
been established at Ferncliffe.
Miss Nannie Leiter, of studious
renown, is visiting Chicago in the
company of her father. Mamma
Leiter plans a garden party in compliment
to Ambassador and Madame Cambon, while
brother Joseph courts fame from the arena of
Buffalo Bill; but for a clear space of a day or
two we have learned naught of Daisy of the
violet orbs. They are the loveliest eyes in
Washington, by contrast with which the commoner
grays and blues appeal to the enamoured
diplomats but as so many soulless
From London wafts the rumor that
Alexandra, pleading a dread of copy-designing
peeresses, guards with jealous
vigilance the secret of her coronation crown,
and gossip adds that she fears to have it
duplicated by some enterprising American.
It is doubtful if the peculiar humor of the
British populace would allow of a full appreciation
of this joke. Years and etiquette
combined have led her Majesty to the thraldom
of the rouge and enamel pot. Like the
sensible woman that she is she attempts no
concealment of the fact that she protects
herself from becoming hideous by the employment
of three maids whose duty it is to
successively undertake the embellishment of
the royal countenance. By means of this
relief no one of these women loses her delicacy
of eye and touch, and Alexandra blooms
with the rosy softness of a girl.
The papers seem to be woefully wrought
up over the financial rating of Mr. Harry
Lehr. Whether he is or whether he is
not a wine boomer would not ordinarily be a
query of agitating importance. Nor yet is the
exact proportion of his yearly salary of national
interest. No one ever accused this agile
gentleman of setting up for a millionaire
while his ingenuousness touching his wife's
property is disconcerting in its frankness.
Now that Tom Reed is settled in New
York one wonders somewhat that one
hears so little of his family. They are
to be congratulated on their breeding, for with
his prominence to back them they would find
notoriety an easy plum. A gentleman called
at Mr. Reed's office a day or two ago to ask
for an autograph letter on the plea that he
had in his possession one of each of the
speakers, and wound up his request with
the half joking query of "You are a great
man, are you not, Mr. Reed?" "No," said
the rotund Tom in his big-voiced drawl,
"No, but I am a good man."
If it be true that the future is revealed
in the past, then should there be
something in the dramatic season
which is dead to indicate the character
of the season not yet born. By
the straws of public approval is the
course of the dramatic current determined
by those master mariners of the stage, the
managers of theatres. The late season has
left no great store of such buoys to mark the
fair channel to success. Of such as there are,
the purport is not altogether convincing.
To record that "Du Barry" and "Beauty and
the Beast" are notable successes is but to record
that the public, as ever, is attracted by
display of rich vestments and spectacular
effect. Such straws indicate nothing more
than that a Circus or a Wild West Show will
seduce to Madison Square Garden an audience
that would fill a theatre for a month.
Mr. Hawtrey's triumph at the Garrick Theatre
is as little of a guide to popular opinion as was
Anna Held's or Weber and Fields'. No
manager in his senses would suggest that because
Mr. Hawtrey succeeded with "A Message
from Mars," the public are prepared to
support a series of like Christmas ghost
stories. It was the novelty that took, and the
personality of a refreshingly non-American
For myself I would seek the trend of public
opinion in a very different group of plays; in
a batch that did not chronicle one single great
success, but each of which received a fair meed
of popular support. I refer to such plays as
"The Second Mrs. Tanqueray," "A Modern
Magdalen," and "Tess of the D'Urbervilles."
In such plays lies the modern tragedy. They
are addressed to the times, actual, intelligible.
But such as held the New York stage in the
past season were timorously constructed,
bowdlerized by stage managers and, for the
most part, poorly acted. Two of the three
I have indicated are plays many seasons old.
The greatest of these is "The Second Mrs.
Tanqueray," interpreted for us by the greatest
actress who ever essayed the part. It
indicated a development I believe to be still
in its infancy—a development that was arrested
before it had been weaned from its first timid
The public does not desire the problem play.
It demands a play that will end with a curtain
definite, convincing. But in the problem
plays of the past it finds the material it fain
would see applied to a bolder, unequivocal
purpose. In the eight years that have elapsed
since the production of Pinero's "Tanqueray,"
the public's stomach has been strengthened.
It is able to digest tragedies in drawing
rooms. It no longer requires peptonized
drama. The playgoer no longer demands
whatever of primal passion is presented to him
to be dressed in doublet and hose. He can
accept plain truths in the speech of the day,
villains and heroines in the costume of the
clubs and Fifth Avenue.
The great play of the future must be a play of
the times, must deal with the real things of
life, must balk at no expression of modern tendencies,
must reveal the skeleton in the twentieth
The days of the historical romance are happily
ended. Such milk and water diet is food not
fit for men. The new dramatist must provide
us with strong meat, properly served by players
of intelligence and insight, if dramatic art
is to be rescued from the slough into which it
has so miserably sunk. The question is: Can
America produce a writer of sufficient originality,
a manager of sufficient courage, an actor
of sufficient understanding to give the public
what it asks?
If such there be, their names are not Clyde
Fitch or David Belasco, Charles Frohman or
Daniel Frohman, Richard Mansfield or Amelia
A sweet disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness;—
A lawn about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction—
An erring lace which here and there
Enthrals the crimson stomacher,—
A cuff neglectful, and thereby
Ribbands to flow confusedly,—
A winning wave deserving note,
In the tempestuous petticoat,—
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie
I see a wild civility,—
Do more bewitch me, than when art
Is too precise in every part.
That Smuggled Silk
By THE OLD LOBBYIST
Should your curiosity invite it, and
the more since I promised you the
story, we will now, my children, go
about the telling of that one operation
in underground silk. It is not
calculated to foster the pride of an
old man to plunge into a relation of dubious
doings of his youth. And yet, as I look backward
on that one bit of smuggling of which I
was guilty, so far as motive was involved, I exonerate
myself. I looked on the government,
because of the South's conquest by the North,
and that later ruin of myself through the
machinations of the Revenue office, as both
a political and a personal foe. And I felt,
not alone morally free, but was impelled besides
in what I deemed a spirit of justice to
myself, to wage war against it as best I might.
It was on such argument, where the chance
proffered, that I sought wealth as a smuggler.
I would deplete the government—forage, as
it were, on the enemy—thereby to fatten my
purse. Of course, as my hair has whitened
with the sifting frosts of years, I confess that
my sophistries of smuggling seem less and
less plausible, while smuggling itself loses
whatever of romantic glamour it may have
been invested with or what little color of respect
to which it might seem able to lay claim.
This tale shall be told in simplest periods.
That is as should be; for expression should
ever be meek and subjugated when one's
story is the mere story of a cheat. There is
scant room in such recital for heroic phrase.
Smuggling, and paint it with what genius one
may, can be nothing save a skulking, hiding,
fear-eaten trade. There is nothing about it
of bravery or dash. How therefore, and
avoid laughter, may one wax stately in any
telling of its ignoble details?
When, following my unfortunate crash in tobacco,
I had cleared away the last fragment
of the confusion that reigned in my affairs, I
was driven to give my nerves a respite and
seek a rest. For three months I had been
under severest stress. When the funeral was
done—for funeral it seemed to me—and my
tobacco enterprise and those hopes it had so
flattered were forever laid at rest, my nerves
sank exhausted and my brain was in a whirl.
I could neither think with clearness nor plan
with accuracy. Moreover, I was prey to
that depression and lack of confidence in myself,
which come inevitably as the corollary
of utter weariness.
Aware of this personal condition, I put aside
thought of any present formulation of a future.
I would rest, recover poise, and win
back that optimism that belongs with health
and youth. This was wisdom; I was jaded
beyond belief; and fatigue means dejection,
and dejection spells pessimism, and pessimism
is never sagacious nor excellent in any of its
For that rawness of the nerves I speak of,
many apply themselves to drink; some rush
to drugs; for myself, I take to music. It
was midwinter, and grand opera was here.
This was fortunate. I buried myself in a
box, and opened my very pores to those
nerve-healthful harmonies. In a week thereafter
I might call myself recovered. My
soul was cool, my eye bright, my mind clear
and sensibly elate. Life and its promises
seemed mightily refreshed.
No one has ever called me superstitious, and
yet to begin my course-charting for a new
career, I harked back to the old Astor House.
It was there that brilliant thought of tobacco
overtook me two years before. Perhaps an
inspiration was to dwell in an environment.
Again I registered, and finding it tenantless,
took over again my old room.
Still I cannot say, and it is to that hostelry's
credit, that my domicile at the Astor aided
me to my smuggling resolves. Those last
had growth somewhat in this fashion: I had
dawdled for two hours over coffee in the cafe—the
room and the employment which had
one-time brought me fortune—but was incapable
of any thought of value. I could
decide on nothing good. Indeed, I did
naught save mentally curse those Washington
revenue miscreants who, failing of blackmail,
had destroyed me for revenge.
Whatever comfort may lurk in curses, at
least they carry no money profit; so after a
fruitless session over coffee and maledictions,
I arose, and as a calmative, walked down
Broadway. At Trinity churchyard, the gates
being open, I turned in and began ramblingly
to twine and twist among the graves. There
I encountered a garrulous old man who, for
his own pleasure, evidently, devoted himself
to my information. He pointed out the grave
of Fulton, he of the steamboats; then I was
shown the tomb of that Lawrence who would
"never give up the ship"; from there I was
carried to the last low bed of the love-wrecked
beautiful Charlotte Temple.
My eye at last, by the alluring voice and
finger of the old guide, was drawn to a spot
under the tower where sleeps the Lady Cornbury,
dead now as I tell this, hardly two
hundred years. Also I was told of that Lord
Cornbury, her husband, once governor of
the colony for his relative, Queen Anne; and
how he became so much more efficient as a
smuggler and a customs cheat, than ever he
was as an executive, that he lost in 1708 his
Because I had nothing more worthy to occupy
my leisure, I listened—somewhat listlessly,
I promise you, for after all I was
thinking of the future not the past, and considering
of the living rather than those old
dead folk, obscure, forgotten in their slim
graves—I listened, I say, wordlessly to my
gray historian; and somehow, after I was
free of him, the one thing that remained alive
in my memory was the smuggling story of
our Viscount Cornbury.
Among those few acquaintances I had formed
during my brief prosperity, was one with a
gentleman named Harris, who had owned
apartments under mine on Twenty-second
Street. Harris was elegant, educated, traveled,
and apparently well-to-do in riches.
Busy with my own mounting fortunes, the
questions of who Harris was? and what he
did? and how he lived? never rapped at the
door of my curiosity for reply. One night,
however, as we sat over a late and by no
means a first bottle of wine, Harris himself
informed me that he was employed in smuggling;
had a partner-accomplice in the Customs
House, and perfect arrangements aboard
a certain ship. By these last double advantages,
he came aboard with twenty trunks,
if he so pleased, without risking anything
from the inquisitiveness or loquacity of the
officers of the ship; and later debarked at
New York with the certainty of going scatheless
through the customs as rapidly as his Inspector
partner could chalk scrawlingly
"O.K." upon his sundry pieces of baggage.
Coming from Old Trinity, still mooting Cornbury
and his smugglings, my thoughts turned
to Harris. Also, for the earliest time, I began
to consider within myself whether smuggling
was not a field of business wherein a
pushing man might grow and reap a harvest.
The idea came to me to turn "free-trader."
The government had destroyed me; I would
make reprisal. I would give my hand to
smuggling and spoil the Egyptian.
At once I sought Harris and over a glass of
Burgundy—ever a favorite wine with me—we
struck agreement. As a finale, we each
put in fifteen thousand dollars and with the
whole sum of thirty thousand dollars Harris
pushed forth for Europe while I remained
behind. Harris visited Lyons; and our complete
investment was in a choicest sort of
Lyons silk. The rich fabrics were packed
in a dozen trunks—not all alike, these trunks,
but differing, one from another, so as to prevent
the notion as they stood about the
wharf that there was aught of relationship
between them or that one man stood owner
of them all.
It is not needed to tell of my partner's voyage
of return. It was without event and one may
safely abandon it, leaving its relation to
Harris himself, if he be yet alive and should
the spirit him so move. It is enough for
the present purpose that in due time the
trunks holding our precious silk-bolts, with
Harris as their convoy, arrived safe in New
York. I had been looking for the boat's
coming and was waiting eagerly on the wharf
as her lines and her stagings were run ashore.
Our partner, the Inspector, and who was to
enjoy a per cent of the profits of the speculation,
was named Lorns. He rapidly chalked
"O.K." with his name affixed to the end of
each several trunk, and it thereupon with
the balance of inspected baggage was promptly
piled upon the wharf.
There had been a demand for drays, I remember,
and on this day when our silks
came in, I was able to procure but one. The
ship did not dock until late in the afternoon,
and at eight o'clock of a dark, foggy April
evening, there still remained one of our
trunks—the largest of all, it was—on the
wharf. The dray had departed with the
second load for that concealing loft on Reade
Street which, in Harris' absence, I had taken
to be used as the depot of those smuggling
operations wherein we might become engaged.
I had made every move with caution;
I had never employed our real names, not
even with the drayman.
As I was telling, the dray was engaged about
the second trip. This last large silk-trunk
was left behind perforce; pile it how one
might, there had been no safe room for it on
the already overloaded dray. The drayman
had promised to return and have it safely in
our loft that night.
For myself, I was from first to last lounging
about the wharf, overseeing the going away
of our goods. Harris, so soon as I gave him
key and street-number had posted to Reade
Street to attend the silk's reception. Waiting
for the coming back of the conveying
dray was but a slow, dull business, and I was
impatiently, at the hour I've named, walking
up and down, casting an occasional glance at
the big last trunk where it stood on end, a bit
drawn out and separated from that common
mountain of baggage wherewith the wharf
was piled. One of the general inspectors, a
man I had never seen but whom I knew, by
virtue of his rank, to be superior to our chalk-wielding
coparcener, Lorns, also paced the
wharf and appeared to bear me company in
a distant, non-communicative way. This
customs captain and myself, save for an under
inspector named Quin, had the dock to ourselves.
The boat was long in and most land
folk had gotten through their concern with
her and wended homeward long before.
There were, however, many passengers of
emigrant sort still held aboard the ship.
As I marched up and down, Lorns came
ashore and pretended some business with his
superior officer. As he returned to the ship
and what duties he had still to perform there,
he made a slight signal to both myself and
his fellow inspector, Quin, to follow him. I
was well known to Lorns, having had several
talks with him, while Harris was abroad.
Quin I had never met; but it quickly appeared
that he was a confidant of Lorns, and
while without a money interest in our affairs
was ready to bear a helping hand should a
situation commence to pinch.
Quin and I went severally and withal carelessly
aboard ship, and not at all as
though we were seeking Lorns. This was to
darken the chief, who was not in our secrets
and whom we both surmised to be the cause
of Lorns' signal.
Once aboard, and gathered in a dark corner,
Lorns began at once:
"Let me do the talking," said Lorns with a
nervous rapidity that at once enlisted the
ears of Quin and myself. "Don't interrupt,
but listen. The chief suspects that last
trunk. I can tell it by the way he acts. A
bit later, when I come ashore, he'll ask to
have it opened. Should he do so, we're
gone; you and I." This last was to me.
Then to Quin: "Do you see that tall lean
Swiss, with the long boots and porcelain
pipe? He's in an ugly mood, doesn't speak
English, and within one minute after you
return to the wharf, he and I will be entangled
in a rough and tumble riot. I'll attend to
that. The row will be prodigious. The
chief will be sent for to settle the war, and
when he leaves the wharf, Quin, don't wait;
seize on that silk trunk and throw it into the
river. There's iron enough clamped about
the corners to sink it; besides, it's packed so
tightly it's as heavy as lead, and will go to
the bottom like an anvil. Then from the
pile pull down some trunk similar to it in
looks and stand it in its place. Give the
new trunk my mark, as the chief has already
read the name on the trunk. Go, Quin; I
rely on you."
"You can trust me, my boy," retorted Quin
cheerfully, and turning on his heel, he was
back on the wharf in a moment, and apparently
busy about the pile of baggage.
Suddenly there came a mighty uproar aboard
ship. Lorns and the Swiss, the latter already
irate over some trouble he had experienced,
were rolling about the deck in a
most violent scrimmage, the Swiss having
decidedly the worst of the trouble. The
chief rushed up the plank; Lorns and the
descendant of Tell and Winkelried, were
torn apart; and then a double din of explanation
ensued. After ten minutes, the
chief was able to straighten out the difficulty—whatever
its pretended cause might be I
know not; for I held myself warily aloof,
not a little alarmed by what Lorns had communicated—and
repaired again to his station
upon the wharf. As he came down the plank,
Quin, who had not been a moment behind
him in going aboard to discover the reasons
of the riot, followed. Brief as was that moment,
however, during which Quin had lingered
behind, he had made the shift suggested
by Lorns; the silk trunk was under the river,
a strange trunk stood in its stead. As the
chief returned, he walked straight to this
suspected trunk and tipped it down with his
foot. Then to Quin:
"Ask Lorns to step here."
Quin went questing after Lorns; shortly
Lorns and Quin came back together. The
chief turned in a brisk, sharp, official way to
"Did you inspect this trunk?"
"I did," said Lorns, looking at the chalk
marks as if to make sure.
No keys were procurable; the owners, Lorns
said, had long since left the docks. But
Lorns suggested that he get hammer and
cold chisel from the ship.
The trunk was opened and found free and
innocent of aught contraband. The chief
wore a puzzled, dark look; he felt that he'd
been cheated, but he couldn't say how.
Therefore being wise, the chief gulped, said
nothing, and as life is short and he had many
things to do, soon after left the docks and
went his way.
"That was a squeak!" said Lorns when we
were at last free of the dangerous chief.
"Quin, I thank you."
"That's all right," retorted Quin, with a grin;
"do as much for me some time."
That night, with the aid of a river rat, our
trunk, jettisoned by the excellent Quin, was
fished up; and being tight as a drum, its
contents had come to little harm with their
sudden baptism. At last, our dozen silk
trunks—holding a treasure of thirty thousand
dollars and whereon we looked to clear a
heavy profit—were safe in the Reade Street
loft; and my hasty heart, which had been
beating at double speed since that almost
fatal interference, slowed to normal count.
One might now suppose that our woes were
at an end, all danger over, and nothing to do
but dispose of our shimmering cargo to best
advantage. Harris and I were of that spirit-lifting
view; we began on the very next day
to feel about for customers.
Harris, whose former smuggling exploits had
dealt solely with gems, knew as little of silk
as did I. Had either been expert we might
have foreseen a coming peril into whose
arms we in our blindness all but walked.
No, my children, our troubles were not yet
done. We had escaped the engulfing suck of
Charybdis, only to be darted upon by those
six grim mouths of her sister monster, Scylla,
over the way.
Well do I recall that morning. I had seen
but two possible purchasers of silks when
Harris overtook me. His eye shone with
alarm. Lorns had run him down with the
news—however he himself discovered it, I
never knew—that another peril was yawning.
Harris hurried me to our Reade Street
lair and gave particulars.
"It seems," said Harris, quite out of breath
with the speed we'd made in hunting cover,
"that A.T. Stewart is for America the sole
agent of these particular brands of silk which
we've brought in. Some one to whom we've
offered them has notified the Stewart company.
At this moment and as we sit here,
the detectives belonging to Stewart, and for
all I may guess, the whole Central Office as
well, are on our track. They want to discover
who has these silks; and how they
came in, since the customs records show no
such importations. And there's a dark characteristic
to these silks. Each bolt has its
peculiar, individual selvage. Each, with a
sample of its selvage, is registered at the
home looms. Could anyone get a snip of
a selvage he could return with it to Lyons,
learn from the manufacturers' book just
when it was woven, when sold, and to whom.
I can tell you one thing," observed Harris, as
he concluded his story, "we're in a bad corner."
How the cold drops spangled my brows! I
began to wish with much heart that I'd never
met Harris; nor heard, that Trinity churchyard
day, of Cornbury and his devious smuggling
methods of gathering wealth.
There was one ray of hope; neither Harris
nor I had disclosed our names, nor the whereabouts
or quantity of the silks; and as each
had been dealing with folk with whom he'd
never before met, we were both as yet mysteries
unsolved. Nor were we ever solved.
Harris and I kept off the streets during daylight
hours for a full month. We were not
utterly idle; we unpleasantly employed ourselves
in trimming away that tell-tale selvage.
Preferring safety to profit, we put forth no
efforts to realize on our speculations for almost
a year. By that time the one day's
wonder of "Who's got A.T. Stewart's silks?"
had ceased to disturb the mercantile world
and the grand procession of dry goods interest
had passed on and over it. At last we crept
forth like felons—as of good sooth! we were—and
disposed of our mutilated silks to certain
good folk whose forefathers once ruled Palestine.
These beaky gentry liked bargains,
and were in nowise curious; they bought our
wares without lifting an eyebrow of inquiry,
and from them constructed—though with
that I had no concern—those long "circulars,"
so called, which were the feminine joy
a third of a century gone. As to Harris and
myself; what with delays, what with expenses,
what with figures reduced to dispose
of our plunder, we got evenly out. We got
back our money; but for those fear-shaken
hours of two separate perils, we were never
For myself, I smuggled no more. Still, I
did not relinquish my pious purpose to
despoil that public treasury Egyptian quoted
heretofore. Neither did I give up the Customs
as a rich theater of illicit endeavor.
Only my methods changed. I now decided
that I, myself, would become an Inspector,
like unto the useful Lorns, and make my
fortune from the opulent inside. I procured
the coveted appointment, for I could bring
power to bear, and some future day I'll tell
you of "The Emperor's Cigars."