I had brought a letter to Max Nordau from America, but I heard after I got to Paris that he was so fierce a woman hater, that I determined not to present it. I read it over every once in awhile, but failed to screw my courage to the sticking point, until one day I mentioned that I had this letter, and Jimmie to my surprise threw up both hands, exclaiming:
“A letter to Max Nordau! Why, it is like owning a gold mine! Present it by all means, and then tell us what he is like.”
Afraid to present it in person, I sent it by mail, saying that I had heard that he hated women and that I was scared to death of him, but if he had a day in the near future on which he felt less fierce than usual, I would come to see him, and I asked permission to bring a friend. By “friend” I meant Jimmie.
The most charming note came in answer that a polished man of the world could write—not in the least like the bear I had imagined him to be, but courteous and even merry. In it he said he should feel honoured if I would visit his poor abode, and he seemed to have read my books and knew all about me, so with very mixed feelings Jimmie and I called at the hour he named.
He lives in one of the regulation apartment houses of Paris, of the meaner sort—by no means as fine as those in the American quarter. The most horrible odour of German cookery—cauliflower and boiled cabbage and vinegar and all that—floated out when the door opened. The room—a sort of living-room—into which we were ushered was a mixture of all sorts of furniture, black haircloth, dingy and old, with here and there a good picture or one fine chair, which I imagined had been presented to him.
Jimmie was much excited at the idea of meeting him. Max Nordau is one of his idols,—Nordau’s horrible power of invective fully meeting Jimmie’s ideas of the way crimes of the bestial sort should be treated. Jimmie is often a surprise to me in his beliefs and ideals, but when Doctor Nordau entered the room I forgot Jimmie and everything else in the world except this one man.
I can see him now as he stood before me—a thick-set man with a magnificent torso, but with legs which ought to have been longer. For that body he ought to have been six feet tall. When he is seated he appears to be a very large man. You would know that he was a physician from the way he shakes hands—even from the touch of his hand, which seems to be in itself a soothing of pain.
He was exquisitely clean. Indeed he seemed, after one look into his face, to be one of the cleanest men I ever had seen. And to look into the face of a man in Paris and to be able to say that, means something.