“Here you are, sir! All the winners! One penny.” This had been the cry of the news lads but the week before.
“England to fight! Here you are, sir. Britain at war!” suddenly they began to yell through the streets.
It was not an hour now, I felt, to trouble Englishmen with my petty literary adventures. Also, I became a refugee, to some extent. And, well—I “beat it” back ’ome again. This was the only way I knew, as a neutral (then), to serve the countries at war.
HENRY JAMES, HIMSELF
We have now to record an extraordinary adventure. Our later education was derived in some considerable measure from the writings of Mr. Henry James. This to explain our emotion. We had never expected to behold himself, the illustrious expatriate who had so far enlightened an unkempt mind. But the night before we had been talking of him. Indeed, it is impossible for us to fail to perceive here something of the supernatural.
But hold! “William Edwards,” says a newspaper notice, “who used to drive a post stage between New York and Albany, died on Saturday at his home. He was born in Albany,” and so and so, “and many were the stories he had to tell of incidents connected with the famous men who were his passengers.” Even so. We were ourselves a clerk. That is, for a number of years we waited on customers in a celebrated book shop. This is one of the stories we have to tell of the personages who were, so to say, our passengers. Or perhaps we are more in the nature of those unscrupulous English footmen to high society, of whom we have heard, who “sell out” their observation and information to the society press.
Anyhow, we are of a loquacious, gossipy turn; and we were booksellers, so to speak, to crowned heads. We have recently heard, too, of another precedent to our garrulous performance, the publication in Rome of the memoirs of an old waiter, who carefully set down the relative liberality of prominent persons whom he served. After having served Cardinals Rampolla and Merry del Val, this excellent memoirist entered opposite their names, “Both no good.” With this we drop the defensive.
We noticed Mr. Wharton sitting down, legs crossed, smoking a cigar. Awaiting, we presumed, his wife. A not unpicturesque figure, tall, rather dashing in effect, ruddy visage, dragoon moustache, and habited in a light, smartly-cut sack suit of rather arresting checks, conspicuous grey spats; a gentleman manifesting no interest whatever in his surroundings.
Mr. Brownell, the critic, entered through the front door and moved to the elevator.