The manuscript lay scattered about the top of his broad flat desk, and the floor beside the waste-basket was flaked with the remains of various futile lines and epigrams. The ash-pan was littered with burnt matches, ends of cigars and pipe tobacco, while the ash-crumbs speckled all dark objects, not excepting the green rug under his feet. Warrington smoked incessantly while at work, now a cigarette, now a cigar, now a pipe. Specialists declare with cold authoritative positiveness that the use of tobacco blunts the thought, dulls the edge of invention; but Warrington knew better. Many a night he had thrown his coat over his smoking-jacket and dashed down the street to the corner drug-store for a fresh supply of tobacco. He simply could not work without it. I do not know that he saw his heroes and heroines any plainer for the smoke; but I do know that when their creator held a cigar between his teeth, they frowned less, and the spirit of malice and irony, of which he was master, became subdued.
Warrington was thirty-five now. The grey hair at the temples and the freshness of his complexion gave him a singularly youthful appearance. His mouth was even-lipped and rather pleasure-loving, which, without the balance of a strong nose, would have appealed to you as effeminate. Warrington’s was what the wise phrenologists call the fighting nose; not pugnacious, but the nose of a man who will fight for what he believes to be right, fight bitterly and fearlessly. To-day he was famous, but only yesterday he had been fighting, retreating, throwing up this redoubt, digging this trench; fighting, fighting. Poverty, ignorance and contempt he fought; fought dishonesty, and vice, and treachery, and discouragement.
Presently he leaned toward the desk and picked up a letter. He read it thoughtfully, and his brows drew together. A smile, whimsically sad, stirred his lips, and was gone. It was written by a girl or a very young woman. There was no signature, no address, no veiled request for an autograph. It was one of those letters which bring to the novelist or dramatist, or any man of talent, a real and singular pleasure. It is precious because honest and devoid of the tawdry gilt of flattery.
Richard Warrington—You will smile, I know, when you read this letter, doubtless so many like it are mailed to you day by day. You will toss it into the waste-basket, too, as it deserves to be. But it had to be written. However, I feel that I am not writing to a mere stranger, but to a friend whom I know well. Three times you have entered into my life, and on each occasion you have come by a different avenue. I was ill at school when you first appeared to me. It was a poem in a magazine. It was so full of the spirit of joyousness, so full of kindliness, so rich in faith and hope, that I cried over it, cut it out and treasured it, and re-read it often in the lonely hours when things discouraged me,—things which mean so little