LOOKING FOR A SHORT CUT TO WEALTH
It is easy to see why a man of this type, with his futile dreams of easy conquests in the field of finance, should have scorned the slow and painful process of acquiring an education. Yet the tragedy of his life was that his only hope of usefulness in the world was through the careful cultivation and development of his really fine intellect. It is also easy to see why such a man would lack the patience to learn a trade even if he had had the manual skill to carry on any trade successfully—which he had not. For the same reasons he would not take pains to qualify himself for any occupation, although he might have made a fair success in retail salesmanship perhaps, notwithstanding his far greater fitness for educational, ministerial, or platform work. On the contrary, he roamed about the country occupying himself at odd times with such bits of light mental or physical work as came his way. Being without training and taking no real interest in his work, he never retained any job long. Sometimes, lured by the will-o’-the-wisp of some fancied opportunity to make a million, he gave up his work. Sometimes he merely got tired of working and quit. But most often he was discharged for his incompetence. It is difficult indeed for any man to attend properly to the cent-a-piece details of an ordinary job when he is dreaming of the easy thousands he is going to make next week.
This charming gentleman was always out of funds. Although he carefully tonsured the ends of his trouser legs, inked the cuffs of his coat, blackened and polished his hose and even his own, fine, fair skin where it showed through the holes of his shoes, and turned his collars and ties again and again, he was nearly always shabby. On rare and ever rarer occasions he would do some relative or friend the inestimable favor and honor of accepting a small loan, “to be repaid in a few days, as soon as a big deal I now have under way is consummated.” These loans were his only successes in the realm of practical finance. Inasmuch as the repayment of them was contingent upon the closing of an ever-imminent, but never consummated, “big deal,” they cost him nothing for either principal or interest. For a few weeks after the successful negotiation of one of these loans, he would be resplendent, opulent, fastidious, even generous. All too soon the last dollar would slip through his unheeding fingers. If during a period of affluence he had succeeded in establishing a little semblance of credit, he would maintain his regal style of living as long as it lasted. Then he would come down to the hall bedroom or even the ten-cent lodging house, the lunch wagon, and the pawn shop. But even at the lowest ebb of his fortunes, he never seemed to lose his cheerfulness, his good nature, his grand manners, and his easy, confident hope and conviction about the huge sums that were to come into his possession “within a few days.”