He was capable and efficient in the highest degree. His duties ranged from those of a nurse to those of a diplomat. He produced, at a moment’s notice, as a conjuror produces rabbits and goldfish, the latest hot-water bottle from a village pharmacy in Elba, special trains from haughty and reluctant officials of State railways, bales of newspapers mysteriously collected from clubs, hotels, or consulates in remote and microscopic ports, fruits and vegetables out of season, rooms, suites, floors of hotels at the height of the rush in the most crowded resorts, or a dozen cabins in a steamer.
He could open telegraph stations and post offices when they were closed to the native nobility, convert the eager curiosity of port officials into a trance-like indifference, or monopolize the services of a whole administration, if the comfort, convenience, or caprice of his master demanded it.
More than this; if, any of these things having been done, they should appear undesirable to Mr. Pulitzer, Dunningham could undo them with the same magician-like ease as had marked their achievement. A wave of Mr. Pulitzer’s hand was translated into action by Dunningham, and the whole of his arrangements disappeared as completely as if they had never existed. The slate was wiped clean, ready in an instant to receive the new message from Mr. Pulitzer’s will.
Dunningham had come to offer me advice. I must not be disturbed by the apparent eccentricity of Mr. Pulitzer’s conduct; it was merely part of Mr. Pulitzer’s fixed policy to make things as complicated and difficult as possible for a candidate. By adopting this plan he was able to discover very quickly whether there was any possibility that a new man would suit him. If the candidate showed impatience or bad temper he could be got rid of at once; if he showed tact and good humor he would graduate into another series of tests, and so on, step by step, until the period of his trying out was ended and he became one of the staff.
A man of my intelligence would, of course, appreciate the advantages of such a method, even from the standpoint of the candidate, for once a candidate had passed the testing stage he would find his relations with Mr. Pulitzer much pleasanter and his work less exacting, whereas if he found at the outset that the conditions were not pleasing to him he could retire without having wasted much time.
One thing I must bear in mind, namely, that each day which passed without Mr. Pulitzer having decided against a candidate increased the candidate’s chances. If a man was to be rejected it was usually done inside of a week from his first appearance on the scene.
And, by the way, had I ever noticed how people were apt to think that blind people were deaf? A most curious thing; really nothing in it. Take Mr. Pulitzer, for example, so far from his being deaf he had the most exquisite sense of hearing, in fact he heard better when people spoke below rather than above their ordinary tone.