MOUNT CLEMATIS, January 1, 1900.
Dear Pierrepont: Since I got here, my rheumatism has been so bad mornings that the attendant who helps me dress has had to pull me over to the edge of the bed by the seat of my pajamas. If they ever give way, I reckon I’ll have to stay in bed all day. As near as I can figure out from what the doctor says, the worse you feel during the first few days you’re taking the baths, the better you really are. I suppose that when a fellow dies on their hands they call it a cure.
I’m by the worst of it for to-day, though, because I’m downstairs. Just now the laugh is on an old boy with benevolent side-whiskers, who’s sliding down the balusters, and a fat old party, who looks like a bishop, that’s bumping his way down with his feet sticking out straight in front of him. Shy away from these things that end in an ism, my boy. From skepticism to rheumatism they’ve an ache or a pain in every blamed joint.
Still, I don’t want to talk about my troubles, but about your own. Barton leaves us on the first, and so we shall need a new assistant general manager for the business. It’s a ten-thousand-dollar job, and a nine-thousand-nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine-dollar man can’t fill it. From the way in which you’ve handled your department during the past year, I’m inclined to think that you can deliver that last dollar’s worth of value. Anyway, I’m going to try you, and you’ve got to make good, because if you should fail it would be a reflection on my judgment as a merchant and a blow to my pride as a father. I could bear up under either, but the combination would make me feel like firing you.
As a matter of fact, I can’t make you general manager; all I can do is to give you the title of general manager. And a title is like a suit of clothes—it must fit the man who tries to wear it. I can clothe you in a little brief authority, as your old college friend, Shakespeare, puts it, but I can’t keep people from laughing at you when they see you swelling around in your high-water pants.
It’s no use demanding respect in this world; you’ve got to command it. There’s old Jim Wharton, who, for acting as a fourth-class consul of a fifth-class king, was decorated with the order of the garter or the suspender or the eagle of the sixth class—the kind these kings give to the cook when he gets just the right flavor of garlic in a fancy sauce. Jim never did a blame thing in his life except to inherit a million dollars from a better man, who happened to come over on the Cunard Line instead of the Mayflower, but he’d swell around in our best society, with that ribbon on his shirt-front, thinking that he looked like Prince Rupert by Louis the Fourteenth and Lady Clara Vere de Vere, instead of the fourth assistant to the floor manager at the Plumbers’ ball. But you take Tom Lipton, who was swelled up into Sir Thomas because he discovered how to pack a genuine Yorkshire ham in Chicago, and a handle looks as natural on him as on a lard pail.