Before I had time to examine my surroundings Mr. Pulitzer entered the room on the arm of the major-domo. My first swift impression was of a very tall man with broad shoulders, the rest of the body tapering away to thinness, with a noble head, bushy reddish beard streaked with gray, black hair, swept back from the forehead and lightly touched here and there with silvery white. One eye was dull and half closed, the other was of a deep, brilliant blue which, so far from suggesting blindness, created the instant effect of a searching, eagle-like glance. The outstretched hand was large, strong, nervous, full of character, ending in well-shaped and immaculately kept nails.
A high-pitched voice, clear, penetrating, and vibrant, gave out the strange challenge: “Well, here you see before you the miserable wreck who is to be your host; you must make the best you can of him. Give me your arm into dinner.”
I may complete here a description of Mr. Pulitzer’s appearance, founded upon months of close personal association with him. The head was splendidly modeled, the forehead high, the brows prominent and arched; the ears were large, the nose was long and hooked; the mouth, almost concealed by the mustache, was firm and thin-lipped; the jaws showed square and powerful under the beard; the length of the face was much emphasized by the flowing beard and by the way in which the hair was brushed back from the forehead. The skin was of a clear, healthy pink, like a young girl’s; but in moments of intense excitement the color would deepen to a dark, ruddy flush, and after a succession of sleepless nights, or under the strain of continued worry, it would turn a dull, lifeless gray.
I have never seen a face which varied so much in expression. Not only was there a marked difference at all times between one side and the other, due partly to the contrast between the two eyes and partly to a loss of flexibility in the muscles of the right side, but almost from moment to moment the general appearance of the face moved between a lively, genial animation, a cruel and wolf-like scowl, and a heavy and hopeless dejection. No face was capable of showing greater tenderness; none could assume a more forbidding expression of anger and contempt.
The Sargent portrait, a masterpiece of vivid character-painting, is a remarkable revelation of the complex nature of its subject. It discloses the deep affection, the keen intelligence, the wide sympathy, the tireless energy, the delicate sensitiveness, the tearing impatience, the cold tyranny, and the flaming scorn by which his character was so erratically dominated. It is a noble and pathetic monument to the suffering which had been imposed for a quarter of a century upon the intense and arbitrary spirit of this extraordinary man.
The account which I am to give of Mr. Pulitzer’s daily life during the months immediately preceding his death would be unintelligible to all but the very few who knew him in recent years if it were not prefaced by a brief biographical note.