More than once, however, I saw all the preparations made for a short cruise, everybody on board, the captain on the bridge, the table laid for lunch, a man stationed at the stem to report the automobile as soon as it came in sight, and at the last moment a messenger arrive countermanding everything and ordering everybody back to the villa as fast as they could go.
These sudden changes were sometimes reversed. We would arrive at Mentone in the morning. J. P. would announce his intention of spending a week there. With this apparently settled, J. P. goes ashore for a ride, the procession makes its way to the villa, the trunks are unpacked, the chef begins to ply his art, the captain of the yacht goes ahead with such washing down and painting as are needed, the chief engineer seizes the chance of making some small engine-room repairs—no ordinary ship’s work of any kind was allowed when J. P. was on board, the slightest noise or the faintest odor of paint being strictly forbidden—and later in the day the news comes that Mr. Pulitzer will be aboard again in two hours and will expect everything to be ready to make an immediate start.
These short cruises might last only for a night, or they might extend to a day or two, Our custom was to steam straight out to sea and then patrol the coast backward and forward between Bordighera and Cannes, without losing sight of land.
The life at Cap Martin was sufficiently arduous, even for those who had after long experience with J. P. learned to get through the day with some economy of effort. To me, new to the work, constantly under the double pressure of Mr. Pulitzer’s cross-examinations and of the task of supplying, however inefficiently, the place of a secretary who was away on sick leave, the whole thing was a nightmare. I was in a dazed condition; everything impressed itself upon me with the vividness of a dream, and eluded my attempts at analysis, just as the delusive order of our sleeping visions breaks up into topsyturvydom as soon as we try to reconstruct it in the light of day.
I spent in all about a month at Cap Martin, staying sometimes on the yacht and sometimes at an hotel, and during that time I worked practically every day from eight in the morning until ten or eleven at night. I use the word “work” to include the hours spent with Mr. Pulitzer as well as those devoted to preparing material for him. Indeed, the time given to meals and to drives and walks with J. P. was much more exhausting than that spent in reading and in making notes.
The only recreation I had during this period was one day on leave at Nice and half a day at Monaco; but there was very little enjoyment to be got out of these visits, because I was under orders to bring back minute descriptions of Nice and of the Institute of Marine Biology at Monaco.
Engaged on such missions, the passers-by, the houses, the shops, the fishes and marine vegetables in their tanks, the blue sky overhead, the blue sea at my feet assumed a new aspect to me. They were no longer parts of my own observation, to be remembered or forgotten as chance determined, they belonged to some one else, to the blind man in whose service I was pledged to a vicarious absorption of “material.”