Our carefully arranged journey passed without incident. We had a private car from Milan to Frankfort and another for the short run to Wiesbaden, where we arrived in time for lunch on the day after our departure from Genoa. Everything had been prepared for our reception by some one who had made similar arrangements on former occasions. We occupied the whole of a villa belonging to one of the large hotels, and situated less than a hundred yards from it.
In the main our life was modeled upon that at the Cap Martin villa; but part of Mr. Pulitzer’s morning was devoted to baths, massage, and the drinking of waters. Our meals were taken, as a rule, either in a private dining-room at the hotel or in the big restaurant of the Kurhaus; but when Mr. Pulitzer was feeling more than usually tired the table was laid in the dining-room of the villa.
Our dinners at the Kurhaus were a welcome change from our ordinary meals with their set routine of literary discussions. Mr. Pulitzer was immensely interested in people; but it was impossible for him to meet them, except on rare occasions, because the excitement was bad for his health. Whenever he dined in a crowded restaurant, however, our time was fully occupied in describing with the utmost minuteness the men, women, and children around us.
The Kurhaus was an excellent place for the exercise of our descriptive powers. In addition to the ordinary crowd of pleasure-seekers and health-hunters there were, during a great part of our visit, a large number of military men, for the Kaiser spent a week at Wiesbaden that year and reviewed some troops, and this involved careful preparation in advance by a host of court officials and high army officers.
Under these circumstances the dining-room of the Kurhaus presented a scene full of color and animation. Sometimes J. P. said to one of us: “Look around for a few minutes and pick out the most interesting-looking man and woman in the room, examine them carefully, try and catch the tone of their voices, and when you are ready describe them to me.” Or he might say: “I hear a curious, sharp, incisive voice somewhere over there on my right. There it is now—don’t you hear it?—s s s s s, every s like a hiss. Describe that man to me; tell me what kind of people he’s talking to; tell me what you think his profession is.” Or it might be: “There are some gabbling women over there. Describe them to me. How are they dressed, are they painted, are they wearing jewels, how old are they?”
In whatever form the request was made its fulfilment meant a description covering everything which could be detected by the eye or surmised from any available clew.
Describing people to J. P. was by no means an easy task. It was no use saying that a man had a medium-sized nose, that he was of average height, and that his hair was rather dark. Everything had to be given in feet and inches and in definite colors. You had to exercise your utmost powers to describe the exact cast of the features, the peculiar texture and growth of the hair, the expression of the eyes, and every little trick of gait or gesture.