I must say for myself that I had a mighty courage and no small capital of cheerfulness. I went to try my luck with the newspapers of Philadelphia, and there one of them kept me in suspense a week to no purpose. When I came back reduced in cash and courage Hope had sailed.
There was a letter from Uncle Eb telling me when and by what steamer they were to leave. ‘She will reach there a Friday,’ he wrote, ‘and would like to see you that evening at Fuller’s’.
I had waited in Philadelphia, hoping I might have some word, to give her a better thought of me, and, that night, after such a climax of ill luck, well — I had need of prayer for a wayward tongue. I sent home a good account of my prospects. I could not bring myself to report failure or send for more money. I would sooner have gone to work in a scullery.
Meanwhile my friends at the chalet were enough to keep me in good cheer. There were William McClingan, a Scotchman of a great gift of dignity and a nickname inseparably connected with his fame. He wrote leaders for a big weekly and was known as Waxy McClingan, to honour a pale ear of wax that took the place of a member lost nobody could tell how. He drank deeply at times, but never to the loss of his dignity or self possession. In his cups the natural dignity of the man grew and expanded. One could tell the extent of his indulgence by the degree of his dignity. Then his mood became at once didactic and devotional. Indeed, I learned in good time of the rumour that he had lost his ear in an argument about the Scriptures over at Edinburgh.
I remember he came an evening, soon after my arrival at the chalet, when dinner was late. His dignity was at the full. He sat awhile in grim silence, while a sense of injury grew in his bosom.
‘Mrs Opper,’ said he, in a grandiose manner and voice that nicely trilled the r’s, ’in the fourth chapter and ninth verse of Lamentations you will find these words — here he raised his voice a bit and began to tap the palm of his left hand with the index finger of his right, continuing: “They that be slain with the sword are better than they that be slain with hunger. For these pine away stricken through want of the fruits of the field.” Upon my honour as a gentleman, Mrs Opper, I was never so hungry in all my life.’
The other boarder was a rather frail man with an easy cough and a confidential manner, lie wrote the ’Obituaries of Distinguished Persons’ for one of the daily papers. Somebody had told him once, his head resembled that of Washington. He had never forgotten it, as I have reason to remember. His mind lived ever among the dead. His tongue was pickled in maxims; his heart sunk in the brine of recollection; his humour not less unconscious and familiar than that of an epitaph; his name was Lemuel Framdin Force. To the public of his native city he had introduced Webster one fourth of July — a perennial topic of his lighter moments.