I came down Broadway that afternoon aboard a big white omnibus, that drifted slowly in a tide of many vehicles. Those days there were a goodly show of trees on either side of that thoroughfare — elms, with here and there a willow, a sumach or a mountain ash. The walks were thronged with handsome people — dandies with high hats and flaunting necknes and swinging canes — beautiful women, each covering a broad circumference of the pavement, with a cone of crinoline that swayed over dainty feet. From Grace Church down it was much of the same thing we see now, with a more ragged sky line. Many of the great buildings, of white and red sandstone, had then appeared, but the street was largely in the possession of small shops — oyster houses, bookstores and the like. Not until I neared the sacred temple of the Tribune did I feel a proper sense of my own littleness. There was the fountain of all that wisdom which had been read aloud and heard with reverence in our household since a time I could but dimly remember. There sat the prophet who had given us so much — his genial views of life and government, his hopes, his fears, his mighty wrath at the prospering of cruelty and injustice.
‘I would like to see Mr Horace Greeley,’ I said, rather timidly, at the counter.
‘Walk right up those stairs and turn to the left,’ said a clerk, as he opened a gate for me.
Ascending, I met a big man coming down, hurriedly, and with heavy steps. We stood dodging each other a moment with that unfortunate co-ordination of purpose men sometimes encounter when passing each other. Suddenly the big man stopped in the middle of the stairway and held both of his hands above his head.
‘In God’s name! young man,’ said he, ‘take your choice.’
He spoke in a high, squeaky voice that cut me with the sharpness of its irritation. I went on past him and entered an open door near the top of the stairway.
‘Is Mr Horace Greeley in?’ I enquired of a young man who sat reading papers.
‘Back soon,’ said he, without looking up. ‘Take a chair.’
In a little while I heard the same heavy feet ascending the stairway two steps at a time. Then the man I had met came hurriedly into the room.
‘This is Mr Greeley,’ said the young man who was reading.
The great editor turned and looked at me through gold-rimmed spectacles. I gave him my letter out of a trembling hand. He removed it from the envelope and held it close to his big, kindly, smooth-shaven face. There was a fringe of silky, silver hair, streaked with yellow, about the lower part of his head from temple to temple. It also encircled his throat from under his collar. His cheeks were fall and fair as a lady’s, with rosy spots in them and a few freckles about his nose. He laughed as he finished reading the letter.
‘Are you Dave Brower’s boy?’ he asked in a drawling falsetto, looking at me out of grey eyes and smiling with good humour.