Even after I had labored long and heroically in the vineyard of professional humor, grape juice, and not wine, was the commoner product of my efforts.
It was no unusual experience that after I had told J. P. one of the best tales in my collection he would say: “Well, go on, go on, come to the point. For God’s sake, isn’t there any end to this story?”
On October 25, 1911, we put into the harbor of Charlestown, S. C. There was the usual business of collecting mail, newspapers, and so on, for J. P., after five days at sea, was eager to pick up the thread of current happenings.
On the following day Mr. Lathan, editor of the Charleston Courier, lunched on the yacht. He and Mr. Pulitzer had an animated discussion about the possibilities of a Democratic victory in 1912. I had never seen J. P. in a more genial mood or in higher spirits.
Whether it was due to the excitement of receiving a visitor whose conversation was so stimulating I do not know; but on Friday, October 27, J. P. was feeling so much out of sorts that he did not appear on deck. On Saturday he remained below only because Dunningham, who always kept the closest watch over his health, persuaded him to have a good rest before resuming the ordinary routine. J. P. was anxious to take up some business matters with Thwaites, but Dunningham induced him to give up the idea.
At three o’clock in the morning of Sunday, October 29, Dunningham came to my cabin and, without making any explanation, said:
“Mr, Pulitzer wishes you to come and read to him.”
I put on a dressing gown, gathered up half a dozen books, and in five minutes I was sitting by Mr. Pulitzer’s bedside. He was evidently suffering a good deal of pain, for he turned from side to side, and once or twice got out of bed and sat in an easy chair.
I tried several books, but finally settled down to read Macaulay’s Essay on Hallam. I read steadily until about five o’clock, and J. P. listened attentively, interrupting me from time to time with a direction to go back and read over a passage.
About half-past five he began to suffer severely, and he sent for the yacht’s doctor, who did what was possible for him. At a few minutes after six J. P. said: “Now, Mr. Ireland, you’d better go and get some sleep; we will finish that this afternoon. Good-bye, I’m much obliged to you. Ask Mr. Mann to come to me. Go, now, and have a good rest, and forget all about me.”
I slept till noon. When I came on deck I found that everything was going on much as usual. One of the secretaries was with J. P.; the others were at work over the day’s papers.
At lunch we spoke of J. P. One man said that he seemed a little worse than usual, another that he had seen him much worse a score of times.
Suddenly the massive door at the forward end of the saloon opened. I turned in my seat and saw framed in the doorway the towering figure of the head butler. I faced his impassive glance, and received the full shock of his calm but incredible announcement: “Mr. Pulitzer is dead.”