By this time Mr. Pulitzer had worked himself up into a state of painful excitement. His forehead was damp with perspiration, he clasped and unclasped his hands, his voice became louder and higher-pitched from moment to moment; but when he suddenly stopped speaking he calmed down instantly.
“You shouldn’t let me talk so much,” he said, without, however, suggesting any means by which I could stop him. “What time is it? Are we nearly home? Well, Mr. Ireland, I’ll let you off for the afternoon; go and enjoy yourself and forget all about me.” Then, as the auto drew up at the door of the villa, “Come up to dinner about seven and try to be amusing. You did very well last night. I hope you can keep it up. It’s most important that anyone who is to live with me should have a sense of humor. I’d be glad to keep a man and pay him a handsome salary if he would make me laugh once a day. Well, good-by till to-night.”
LIFE AT CAP MARTIN
There was no lack of humor in Mr. Pulitzer’s suggestion that I should go and enjoy myself and forget him. I went down to the yacht, had lunch in solitary state, and then, selecting a comfortable chair in the smoking-room, settled down to think things over.
It soon became clear to me that J. P. was a man of a character so completely outside the range of my experience that any skill of judgment I might have acquired through contact with many men of many races would avail me little in my intercourse with him.
That he was arbitrary, self-centered, and exacting mattered little to me; it was a combination of qualities which rumor had led me to expect in him, and with which I had become familiar in my acquaintance with men of wide authority and outstanding ability. What disturbed me was that his blindness, his ill health, and his suffering had united to these traits an intense excitability and a morbid nervousness.
My first impulse was to attribute his capriciousness to a weakening of his brain power; but I could not reconcile this view with the vigor of his thought, with the clearness of his expression, with the amplitude of his knowledge, with the scope of his memory as they had been disclosed the previous night in his conversation with Paterson. No, the fact was that I had not found the key to his motives, the cipher running through the artificial confusion of his actions.
I could not foresee the issue of the adventure. In the meantime, however, the yacht was a comfortable home, the Cote d’Azur was a new field of observation, J. P. and his secretaries were extremely interesting, the honorarium was accumulating steadily, and in the background Barbados still slept in the sunshine, an emerald in a sapphire sea.
During the afternoon I had a visit from Jabez E. Dunningham, the major-domo. I pay tribute to him here as one of the most remarkable men I have ever met, an opinion which I formed after months of daily intercourse with him. He was an Englishman, and he had spent nearly twenty years with Mr. Pulitzer, traveling with him everywhere, hardly ever separated from him for more than a few hours, and he was more closely in his confidence than anyone outside the family.