put the best talent of San Francisco on the job : Harry
Miller, the brightest pressman in the city."
And so he rattled on, beyond reach of my modest
protestations, blurting out his complicated interests,
crying up his new acquaintances, and ever and again
hungering to introduce me to some "whole-souled,
grand fellow, as sharp as a needle," from whom, and
the very thought of whom, my spirit shrank instinct-
IN WHICH I GO WEST. 121
Well, I was in for it : in for Pinkerton, in for the pop*
trait, in for the type-written lecture. One promise I
extorted that I was never again to be committed in
ignorance ; even for that, when 1 saw how its extortion
puzzled and depressed the Irrepressible, my soul re-
pented me ; and in all else I suffered myself to be led
uncomplaining at his chariot wheels. The Irrepressible,
did I say ? The Irresistible were nigher truth.
But the time to have seen me was when I sat down
to Harry Miller's lecture. He was a facetious dog, this
Harry Miller; he had a gallant way of skirting the
indecent which (in my case) produced physical nausea;
and he could be sentimental and even melodramatic
about grisettes and starving genius. I found he had
enjoyed the benefit of my correspondence with Pinkerton:
adventures of my own were here and there horridly mis-
represented, sentiments of my own echoed and exagger-
ated till I blushed to recognise them. I will do Harry
Miller justice : he must have had a kind of talent, almost
of genius ; all attempts to lower his tone proving fruit-
less, and the Harry-Millerism ineradicable. Nay, the
monster had a certain key of style, or want of style, so
that certain milder passages, which I sought to introduce,
discorded horribly, and impoverished (if that were pos-
sible) the general effect.
By an early hour of the numbered evening I might
have been observed at the sign of the Poodle Dog, dining
with my agent : so Pinkerton delighted to describe him-
122 THE WKECKER.
self. Thence, like an ox to the slaughter, he led me
to the hall, where I stood presently alone, confronting
assembled San Francisco, with no better allies than a
table, a glass of water, and a mass of manuscript and type*
work, representing Harry Miller and myself. I read the
lecture ; for I had lacked both time and will to get the
trash by heart read it hurriedly, humbly, and with
visible shame. Now and then I would catch in the
auditorium an eye of some intelligence, now and then,
in the manuscript, would stumble on a richer vein of
Harry Miller, and my heart would fail me, and I gabbled.
The audience yawned, it stirred uneasily, it muttered,
grumbled, and broke forth at last in articulate cries of
"Speak up!" and "Nobody can hear!" I took to skip-
ping, and being extremely ill-acquainted with the coun-
try, almost invariably cut in again in the unintelligible
midst of some new topic. What struck me as extremely
ominous, these misfortunes were allowed to pass with-
out a laugh. Indeed, I was beginning to fear the
worst, and even personal indignity, when all at once
the humour of the thing broke upon me strongly. I
could have laughea aloud; and being again summoned
to speak up, I faced my patrons for the first time with,
a smile. "Very well," I said, "I will try; though I
don't suppose anybody wants to hear, and I can't see
why anybody should." Audience and lecturer laughed
together till the tears ran down; vociferous and re-
peated applause hailed my impromptu sally. Another
IN WHICH I GO WEST. 123
hit which I made but a little after, as I turned three
pages of the copy : " You see I am leaving out as much
as I possibly can/' increased the esteem with which my
patrons had begun to regard me; and when I left the
stage at last, my departing form was cheered with
laughter, stamping, shouting, and the waving of hats.
Pinkerton was in the waiting-room, feverishly jotting
in his pocket-book. As he saw me enter, he sprang up,
and I declare, the tears were trickling on his cheeks.
" My dear boy," he cried, " I can never forgive myself,
and you can never forgive me. Never mind : I did it
for the best. And how nobly you clung on I I dreaded
we should have had to return the money at the doors."
" It would have been more honest if we had," said I.
The pressmen followed me, Harry Miller in the front
ranks ; and I was amazed to find them, on the whole, a
pleasant set of lads, probably more sinned against than
sinning, and even Harry Miller apparently a gentleman.
I had in oysters and champagne for the receipts were
excellent and being in a high state of nervous tension,
kept the table in a roar. Indeed, I was never in my
life so well inspired as when I described my vigil over
Harry Miller's literature or the series of my emotions
as I faced the audience. The lads vowed I was the
soul of good company and the prince of lecturers ; and
so wonderful an institution is the popular press if
you had seen the notices next day in all the papers, you
must have supposed my evening's entertainment an
124 THE WKECKER.
I was in excellent spirits when I returned home that
night, but the miserable Pinkerton sorrowed for us
"0, London," he said, "I shall never forgive myself.
When I saw you didn't catch on to the idea of the lec-
ture, I should have given it myself 1 "
IBONS IN THE FIRE.
The food of the body differs not so greatly for
the fool or the sage, the elephant or the cock-sparrow;
and similar chemical elements, variously disguised,
support all mortals. A brief study of Pinkerton in
his new setting convinced me of a kindred truth about
that other and mental digestion, by which we extract
what is called "fun for our money" out of life.
In the same spirit as a schoolboy, deep in Mayne Eeid,
handles a dummy gun and crawls among imaginary
forests, Pinkerton sped through Kearney Street upon
his daily business, representing to himself a highly
coloured part in life's performance, and happy for hours
if he should have chanced to brush against a million-
IRONS IN THE FIRE. 126
naire. Reality was his romance; he gloried to be thus
engaged ; he wallowed in his business. Suppose a man
to dig up a galleon on the Coromandel coast, his rakish
schooner keeping the while an offing under easy sail,
and he, by the blaze oi a great fire of wreckwood, to
measure ingots by the bucketful on the uproarious
beach: such an one might realise a greater material
spoil ; he should have no more profit of romance than
Pinkerton when he cast up his weekly balance-sheet in
a bald office. Every dollar gained was like something
brought ashore from a mysterious deep; every venture
made was like a diver's plunge; and as he thrust his
bold hand into the plexus of the money-market, he was
delightedly aware of how he shook the pillars of exist-
ence, turned out men (as at a battle-cry) to labour in far
countries, and set the gold twitching in the drawers of
I could never fathom the full extent of his specu-
lations; but there were five separate businesses whioh
he avowed and carried like a banner. The Thirteen Star
Golden State Brandy, Warranted Entire (a very flagrant
distillation) filled a great part of his thoughts and was
kept before the public in an eloquent but misleading
treatise: Why drink French Brandy? A Word to the
Wise. He kept an office for advertisers, counselling,
designing, acting as middleman with printers and bill-
stickers, for the inexperienced or the uninspired: the
126 THE WRECKER.
dull haberdasher came to him for ideas, the smart theat-
rical agent for his local knowledge ; and one and all
departed with a copy of his pamphlet : How, When, and
Where; or, the Advertiser's Vade-Mecum. He had a
tug chartered every Saturday afternoon and night, car-
ried people outside the Heads, and provided them with
lines and bait for six hours' fishing, at the rate of five
dollars a person. I am told that some of them (doubt-
less adroit anglers) made a profit on the transaction.
Occasionally he bought wrecks and condemned vessels;
these latter (I cannot tell you how) found their way to
sea again under aliases, and continued to stem the waves
triumphantly enough under the colours of Bolivia or
Nicaragua. Lastly, there was a certain agricultural
engine, glorying in a great deal of vermilion and blue
paint, and filling (it appeared) a "long-felt want," in
which his interest was something like a tenth.
This for the face or front of his concerns. " On the
outside," as he phrased it, he was variously and myste-
riously engaged. No dollar slept in his possession;
rather he kept all simultaneously flying like a conjurer
with oranges. My own earnings, when I began to have
a share, he would but show me for a moment, and dis
perse again, like those illusive money gifts which are
flashed in the eyes of childhood only to be entombed in
the missionary box. And he would come down radiant
from a weekly balance-sheet, clap me on the shoulder,
IRONS IN THE FIRE. 127
declare himself a winner by Gargantuan figures, and
prove destitute of a quarter for a drink.
"What on earth have you done with it?" I would ask.
" Into the mill again ; all re-invested ! " he would cry,
with infinite delight. Investment was ever his word.
He could not bear what he called gambling. "Never
touch stocks, Loudon," he would say; "nothing but
legitimate business." And yet, Heaven knows, many an
indurated gambler might have drawn back appalled at
the first hint of some of Pinkerton's investments ! One,
which I succeeded in tracking home, and instance for a
specimen, was a seventh share in the charter of a certain
ill-starred schooner bound for Mexico, to smuggle weap-
ons on the one trip, and cigars upon the other. The
latter end of this enterprise, involving (as it did) ship-
wreck, confiscation, and a lawsuit with the underwriters,
was too painful to be dwelt upon at length. " It's proved
a disappointment," was as far as my friend would go
with me in words ; but I knew, from observation, that
the fabric of his fortunes tottered. For the rest, it was
only by accident I got wind of the transaction; for
Pinkerton, after a time, was shy of introducing me to
his arcana : the reason you are to hear presently.
The office which was (or should have been) the point
of rest for so many evolving dollars stood in the heart
of the city : a high and spacious room, with many plate,
glass windows. A glazed cabinet of /polished redwood
offered to the eye a regiment of some two hundred
128 THE WRECKER.
bottles, conspicuously labelled. These were all charged
with Pinkerton's Thirteen Star, although from across the
room it would have required an expert to distinguish
them from the same number of bottles of Courvoisier. I
used to twit my friend with this resemblance, and pro-
pose a new edition of the pamphlet, with the title thus
improved : Why Drink French Brandy, when we give you
the same labels ? The doors of the cabinet revolved all
day upon their hinges ; and if there entered any one who
was a stranger to the merits of the brand, he departed
laden with a bottle. When I used to protest at this
extravagance, " My dear Loudon," Pinkerton would cry,
"you don't seem to catch on to business principles!
The prime cost of the spirit is literally nothing. I
couldn't find a cheaper advertisement if I tried."
Against the side post of the cabinet there leaned a
gaudy umbrella, preserved there as a relic. It appears
that when Pinkerton was about to place Thirteen Star
upon the market, the rainy season was at hand. He lay
dark, almost in penury, awaiting the first shower, at
which, as upon a signal, the main thoroughfares became
dotted with his agents, vendors of advertisements ; and
the whole world of San Francisco, from the business
man fleeing for 'the ferry-boat, to the lady waiting at
the corner for her car, sheltered itself under umbrellas
with this strange device : Are you wet ? Try Thirteen
Star. " It was a mammoth boom," said Pinkerton, with
a sigh of delighted recollection. " There wasn't anothei
IRONS IN THE FIRE. 129
umbrella to be seen. I stood at this window, London,
feasting my eyes ; and I declare, I felt like Vanderbilt."
And it was to this neat application of the local climate
that he owed, not only much of the sale of Thirteen Star,
but the whole business of his advertising agency.
The large desk (to resume our survey of the office)
stood about the middle, knee-deep in stacks of handbills
and posters, of Why Drink French Brandy? and The
Advertiser's Vade-Mecum. It was flanked upon the one
hand by two female type-writers, who rested not between
the hours of nine and four, and upon the other by a
model of the agricultural machine. The walls, where
they were not broken by telephone boxes and a couple
of photographs one representing the wreck of the
James L. Moody on a bold and broken coast, the other
the Saturday tug alive with amateur fishers almost
disappeared under oil-paintings gaudily framed. Many
of these were relics of the Latin Quarter, and I must do
Pinkerton the justice to say that none of them were bad,
and some had remarkable merit. They went off slowly
but for handsome figures; and their places were pro-
gressively supplied with the work of local artists.
These last it was one of my first duties to review and
criticise. Some of them were villainous, yet all were
saleable. I said so ; and the next moment saw myself,
the figure of a miserable renegade, bearing arms in the
wrong camp. I was to look at pictures thenceforward,
not with the eye of the artist, but the dealer ; and I sa^v
the stream widen that divided me from aU I loved.
"Now, Loudon," Pinkerton had said, the morning
after the lecture, " now Loudon, we can go at it shoulder
to shoulder. This is what I have longed for : I wanted
two heads and four arms ; and now I have 'em. You'll
find it's just the same as art all observation and imagi-
nation ; only more movement. Just wait till you begin
to feel the charm!"
I might have waited long. Perhaps I lack a sense ;
for our whole existence seemed to me one dreary bustle,
and the place we bustled in fitly to be called the Place
of Yawning. I slept in a little den behind the office;
Pinkerton, in the office itself, stretched on a patent sofa
which sometimes collapsed, his slumbers still further
menaced by an imminent clock with an alarm. Roused
by this diabolical contrivance, we rose early, went forth
early to breakfast, and returned by nine to what Pinker-
ton called work, and I distraction. Masses of letters
must be opened, read, and answered; some by me at a
subsidiary desk which had been introduced on the morn-
ing of my arrival; others by my bright-eyed friend,
pacing the room like a caged lion as he dictated to the
tinkling type-writers. Masses of wet proof had to be
overhauled and scrawled upon with a blue pencil
"rustic" "six-inch caps" "bold spacing here" or
sometimes terms more fervid, as for instance this, which
I remember Pinkerton to have spirted on the margin of
an advertisement of Soothing Syrup : " Throw this all
down. Have you never printed an advertisement ? I'll
IRONS IN THE FIRE. 131
be round in half an hour." The ledger and sale-book,
besides, we had always with us. Such was the backbone
of our occupation, and tolerable enough; but the far
greater proportion of our time was consumed by visitors,
whole-souled, grand fellows no doubt, and as sharp as a
needle, but to me unfortunately not diverting. Some
were apparently half-witted, and must be talked over by
the hour before they could reach the humblest decision,
which they only left the office to return again (ten
minutes later) and rescind. Others came with a vast
show of hurry and despatch, but I observed it to be
principally show. The agricultural model for instance,
which was practicable, proved a kind of flypaper for
these busybodies. I have seen them blankly turn the
crank of it for five minutes at a time, simulating (to
nobody's deception) business interest: "Good thing this,
Pinkerton ? Sell much of it ? Ha ! Couldn't use it, I
suppose, as a medium of advertisement for my article ? "
which was perhaps toilet soap. Others (a still worse
variety) carried us to neighbouring saloons to dice for
cocktails and (after the cocktails were paid) for dollars
on a corner of the counter. The attraction of dice for
all these people was indeed extraordinary : at a certain
club, where I once dined in the character of "my
partner, Mr. Dodd," the dice-box came on the table with
the wine, an artless substitute for after-dinner wit.
Of all our visitors, I believe I preferred Emperor Nor-
ton; the very mention of whose name reminds me I
132 THE WHECKER.
am doing scanty justice to the folks of San Francisco.
In what other city would a harmless madman who sup
posed himself emperor of the two Americas have been
so fostered and encouraged? Where else would even
the people of the streets have respected the poor soul's
illusion? Where else would bankers and merchants
have received his visits, cashed his cheques, and sub-
mitted to his small assessments ? Where else would he
have been suffered to attend and address the exhibition
days of schools and colleges ? where else, in God's green
earth, have taken his pick of restaurants, ransacked the
bill of fare, and departed scathless? They tell me he
was even an exacting patron, threatening to withdraw
his custom when dissatisfied; and I can believe it, for
his face wore an expression distinctly gastronomical.
Pinkerton had received from this monarch a cabinet
appointment ; I have seen the brevet, wondering mainly
at the good nature of the printer who had executed the
forms, and I think my friend was at the head eithe/
of foreign affairs or education: it mattered, indeed,
nothing, the prestation being in all offices identical. It
was at a comparatively early date that I saw Jim in
the exercise of his public functions. His Majesty en-
tered the office a portly, rather flabby man, with the
face of a gentleman, rendered unspeakably pathetic and
absurd by the great sabre at his side and the peacock's
feather in his hat.
"I have called to remind you, Mr. Pinkerton, that
IRONS IN THE FIRE. 133
you are somewhat in arrear of taxes," he said, with
old-fashioned, stately courtesy.
"Well, Your Majesty, what is the amount?" asked
Jim ; and when the figure was named (it was generally
two or three dollars), paid upon the nail and offered a
bonus in the shape of Thirteen Star.
"I am always delighted to patronise native indus-
tries," said Norton the First. " San Francisco is public-
spirited in what concerns its Emperor ; and indeed, sir,
of all my domains, it is my favourite city."
"Come," said I, when he was gone, "I prefer that
customer to the lot."
"It's really rather a distinction," Jim admitted. "I
think it must have been the umbrella racket that at-
We were distinguished under the rose by the notice
of other and greater men. There were days when Jim
wore an air of unusual capacity and resolve, spoke with
more brevity like one pressed for time, and took often
on his tongue such phrases as "Longhurst told me so
this morning," or "I had it straight from Longhurst
himself." It was no wonder, I used to think, that Pink-
erton was called to council with such Titans; for the
creature's quickness and resource were beyond praise.
Im the early days when he consulted me without reserve,
pacing the room, projecting, ciphering, extending hy-
pothetical interests, trebling imaginary capital, his "en-
gine" (to renew an excellent old word) labouring full
134 THE WBECKER.
steam ahead, I could never decide whether my sense of
respect or entertainment were the stronger. But these
good hours were destined to curtailment.
"Yes, it's smart enough," I once observed. "But,
Pinkerton, do you think it's honest ? "
" You don't think it's honest ! " he wailed. " dear
me, that ever I should have heard such an expression on
your lips ! "
At sight of his distress, I plagiarised unblushingly
from Myner. "You seem to think honesty as simple
as Blind Man's Buff," said I. "It's a more delicate
affair than that: delicate as any art."
" well ! at that rate ! " he exclaimed, with complete
relief. "That's casuistry."
" I am perfectly certain of one thing : that what you
propose is dishonest," I returned.
"Well, say no more about it. That's settled," he
Thus, almost at a word, my point was carried. But
the trouble was that such differences continued to recur,
until we began to regard each other with alarm. If there
were one thing Pinkerton valued himself upon, it was his
honesty ; if there were one thing he clung to, it was my
good opinion ; and when both were involved, as was the
case in these commercial cruces, the man was on the
rack. My own position, if you consider how much I
owed him, how hateful is the trade of fault-finder, and
that yet I lived and fattened on these questionable oper
IKONS IN THE FIRE. 135
ations, was perhaps equally distressing. If I had been
more sterling or more combative things might have gone
extremely far. But, in truth, I was just base enough to
profit by what was not forced on my attention, rather
than seek scenes : Pinkerton quite cunning enough to
avail himself of my weakness; and it was a relief to
both when he began to involve his proceedings in a
Our last dispute, which had a most unlooked-for con-
sequence, turned on the refitting of condemned ships.
He had bought a miserable hulk, and came, rubbing his
hands, to inform me she was already on the slip, under
a new name, to be repaired. When first I had heard of
this industry I suppose I scarcely comprehended; but
much discussion had sharpened my faculties, and now
my brow became heavy.
" I can be no party to that, Pinkerton," said I.
He leaped like a man shot. " What next ? " he crieQ
" What ails you, anyway ? You seem to me to dislike
everything that's profitable."
"This ship has been condemned by Lloyd's agent,"
"But I tell you it's a deal. The ship's in splendid
condition; there's next to nothing wrong with her but
the garboard streak and the sternpost. I tell you
Lloyd's is a ring like everybody else ; only it's an English
ring, and that's what deceives you. If it was American,
you would be crying it down all day. It's Anglomania*
136 THE WRECKER.
common Anglomania," he cried, with growing irrita.
" I will not make money by risking men's lives," was
"Great Caesar! isn't all speculation a risk? Isn't
the fairest kind of shipowning to risk men's lives?
And mining how's that for risk? And look at the
elevator business there's danger, if you like ! Didn't
I take my risk when I bought her ? She might have
been too far gone; and where would I have been?
London," he cried, "I tell you the truth: you're too full
of refinement for this world!"
"I condemn you out of your own lips," I replied.
" ' The fairest kind of shipowning,' says you. If you
please, let us only do the fairest kind of business."
The shot told, the Irrepressible was silenced; and I
profited by the chance, to pour in a broadside of another
sort. He was all sunk in money-getting, I pointed out ;
he never dreamed of anything but dollars. Where were
all his generous, progressive sentiments ? Where was his
culture ? I asked. And where was the American Type ?
"It's true, London," he cried, striding up and down
the room, and wildly scouring at his hair. "You're
perfectly right. I'm becoming materialised. 0, what
a thing to have to say, what a confession to make!
Materialised ! Me ! London, this must go on no longer.
You've been a loyal friend to me once more ; give
me your hand! you've saved me again. I must do
IRONS IN THE FIRE. 13?
something to rouse the spiritual side : something desper-
ate ; study something, something dry and tough. What
shall it be? Theology? Algebra? What's Algebra?"
" It's dry and tough enough," said I ; " a 2 + 2 ab + 6V*
" It's stimulating, though ? " he inquired.
I told him I believed so, and that it "was considered
fortifying to Types.
" Then, that's the thing for me. I'll study Algebra,"
The next day, by application to one of his type-writing
women, he got word of a young lady, one Miss Mamie
McBride, who was willing and able to conduct him im
these bloomless meadows ; and, her circumstances being
lean, and terms consequently moderate, he and Mamie
were soon in agreement for two lessons in the week.
He took fire with unexampled rapidity; he seemed