‘You there?’ he whispered presently.
‘I am here,’ I said.
‘Odd!’ he muttered. ’I know how it will be — I know how it has been before. Generally come to some high place and a great fear seizes me. I slip, I fall — fall — fall, and then I wake.
After a little silence I heard him snoring heavily. He was still leaning back in his chair. I walked on tiptoe to the door where the boy stood looking out.
‘Crazy?’ I whispered.
‘Dunno,’ said he, smiling.
I went to my room above and wrote my first tale, which was nothing more or less than some brief account of what I had heard and seen down at the little shop that evening. I mailed it next day to the Knickerbocker, with stamps for return if unavailable.
New York was a crowded city, even then, but I never felt so lonely anywhere outside a camp in the big woods, The last day of the first week came, but no letter from Hope. To make an end of suspense I went that Saturday morning to the home of the Fullers. The equation of my value had dwindled sadly that week. Now a small fraction would have stood for it — nay, even the square of it.
Hope and Mrs Fuller had gone to Saratoga, the butler told me. I came away with some sense of injury. I must try to be done with Hope. There was no help for it. I must go to work at something and cease to worry and lie awake of nights. But I had nothing to do but read and walk and wait. No word had come to me from the ‘Tribune’ — evidently it was not languishing for my aid. That day my tale was returned to me with thanks with nothing but thanks printed in black type on a slip of paper — cold, formal, prompt, ready-made thanks. And I, myself, was in about the same fix — rejected with thanks — politely, firmly, thankfully rejected. For a moment I felt like a man falling. I began to see there was no very clamourous demand for me in ‘the great emporium’, as Mr Greeley called it. I began to see, or thought I did, why Hope had shied at my offer and was now shunning me. I went to the Tribune office. Mr Greeley had gone to Washington; Mr Ottarson was too busy to see me. I concluded that I would be willing to take a place on one of the lesser journals. I spent the day going from one office to another, but was rejected everywhere with thanks. I came home and sat down to take account of stock. First, I counted my money, of which there were about fifty dollars left. As to my talents, there were none left. Like the pies at the Hillsborough tavern, if a man came late to dinner — they were all out. I had some fine clothes, but no more use for them than a goose for a peacock’s feathers. I decided to take anything honourable as an occupation, even though it were not in one of the learned professions. I began to answer advertisements and apply at business offices for something to give me a living, but with no success. I began to feel the selfishness of men. God pity the warm and tender heart of youth when it begins to harden and grow chill, as mine did then; to put away its cheery confidence forever; to make a new estimate of itself and others. Look out for that time, O ye good people! that have sons and daughters.