It was in the adjoining bathroom, where the host daily personally superintended the ablutions of his guests, that even more of his remarkable method was revealed. Here a goodly portion of the force of his method was his skill in removing any sense of ability, agility, authority or worth from those with whom he dealt. Apparently to him, in his strength and energy, they were all children, weaklings, failures, numbskulls, no matter what they might be in the world outside. They had no understanding of the most important of their possessions, their bodies. And here again, even more than in the gymnasium, they were at the disadvantage of feeling themselves spectacles, for here they were naked. However grand an osseous, leathery lawyer or judge or doctor or politician or society man may look out in the world addressing a jury or a crowd or walking in some favorite place, glistening in his raiment, here, whiskered, thin of legs, arms and neck, with bulging brow and stripped not only of his gown but everything else this side of his skin—well, draw your own conclusion. For after performing certain additional exercises—one hundred times up on your toes, one hundred times (if you could) squatting to your knees, one hundred times throwing your arms out straight before you from your chest or up from your shoulders or out at right angles, right and left from your body and back to your hips until your fingers touched and the sweat once more ran—you were then ready to be told (for once in your life) how to swiftly and agilely take a bath.
"Well, now, you're ready, are you?" this to a noble jurist who, like myself perhaps, had arrived only the day before. "Come on, now. Now you have just ten seconds in which to jump under the water and get yourself wet all over, twenty seconds in which to jump out and soap yourself thoroughly, ten seconds in which to get back in again and rinse off all the soap, and twenty seconds in which to rub and dry your skin thoroughly—now start!"
The distinguished jurist began, but instead of following the advice given him for rapid action huddled himself in a shivering position under the water and stood all but inert despite the previous explanation of the host that the sole method of escaping the weakening influence of cold water was by counteracting it with activity, when it would prove beneficial.
He was such a noble, stalky, bony affair, his gold eyeglasses laid aside for the time being, his tweeds and carefully laundered linen all dispensed with during his stay here. As he came, meticulously and gingerly and quite undone by his efforts, from under the water, where he had been most roughly urged by Culhane, I hoped that he and not I would continue to be seized upon by this savage who seemed to take infinite delight in disturbing the social and intellectual poise of us all.
"Soap yourself!" exclaimed the latter most harshly now that the bather was out in the room once more. "Soap your chest! Soap your stomach! Soap your arms, damn it! Soap your arms! And don't rub them all day either! Now soap your legs, damn it! Soap your legs! Don't you know how to soap your legs! Don't stand there all day! Soap your legs! Now turn round and soap your back—soap your back! For Christ's sake, soap your back! Do it quick—quick! Now come back under the water again and see if you can get it off. Don't act as though you were cold molasses! Move! Move! Lord, you act as though you had all day—as though you had never taken a bath in your life! I never saw such an old poke. You come up here and expect me to do some things for you, and then you stand around as though you were made of bone! Quick now, move!"
The noble jurist did as demanded—that is, as quickly as he could—only the mental inadequacy and feebleness which he displayed before all the others, of course, was the worst of his cruel treatment here, and in this as in many instances it cut deep. So often it was the shock to one's dignity more than anything else which hurt so, to be called an old poke when one was perhaps a grave and reverent senior, or to be told that one was made of bone when one was a famous doctor or merchant. Once under the water this particular specimen had begun by nervously rubbing his hands and face in order to get the soap off, and when shouted at and abused for that had then turned his attention to one other spot—the back of his left forearm.
Mine host seemed enraged. "Well, well!" he exclaimed irascibly, watching him as might a hawk. "Are you going to spend all day rubbing that one spot? For God's sake, don't you know enough to rub your whole body and get out from under the water? Move! Move! Rub your chest! Rub your belly! Hell, rub your back! Rub your toes and get out!"
When routed from the ludicrous effort of vigorously rubbing one spot he was continually being driven on to some other, as though his body were some vast complex machine which he had never rightly understood before. He was very much flustered of course and seemed wholly unable to grasp how it was done, let alone please his exacting host.
"Come on!" insisted the latter finally and wearily. "Get out from under the water. A lot you know about washing yourself! For a man who has been on the bench for fifteen years you're the dullest person I ever met. If you bathe like that at home, how do you keep clean? Come on out and dry yourself!"
The distinguished victim, drying himself rather ruefully on an exceedingly rough towel, looked a little weary and disgusted. "Such language!" some one afterwards said he said to some one else. "He's not used to dealing with gentlemen, that's plain. The man talks like a blackguard. And to think we pay for such things! Well, well! I'll not stand it, I'm afraid. I've had about enough. It's positively revolting, positively revolting!" But he stayed on, just the same—second thoughts, a good breakfast, his own physical needs. At any rate weeks later he was still there and in much better shape physically if not mentally.
About the second or third day I witnessed another such spectacle, which made me laugh—only not in my host's presence—nay, verily! For into this same chamber had come another distinguished personage, a lawyer or society man, I couldn't tell which, who was washing himself rather leisurely, as was not the prescribed way, when suddenly he was spied by mine host, who was invariably instructing some one in this swift one-minute or less system. Now he eyed the operation narrowly for a few seconds, then came over and exclaimed:
"Wash your toes, can't you? Wash your toes! Can't you wash your toes?"
The skilled gentleman, realizing that he was now living under very different conditions from those to which presumably he was accustomed, reached down and began to rub the tops of his toes but without any desire apparently to widen the operation.
"Here!" called the host, this time much more sharply, "I said wash your toes, not the outside of them! Soap them! Don't you know how to wash your toes yet? You're old enough, God knows! Wash between 'em! Wash under 'em!"
"Certainly I know how to wash my toes," replied the other irritably and straightening up, "and what's more, I'd like you to know that I am a gentleman."
"Well, then, if you're a gentleman," retorted the other, "you ought to know how to wash your toes. Wash 'em—and don't talk back!"
"Pah!" exclaimed the bather now, looking twice as ridiculous as before. "I'm not used to having such language addressed to me."
"I can't help that," said Culhane. "If you knew how to wash your toes perhaps you wouldn't have to have such language addressed to you."
"Oh, hell!" fumed the other. "This is positively outrageous! I'll leave the place, by George!"
"Very well," rejoined the other, "only before you go you'll have to wash your toes!"
And he did, the host standing by and calmly watching the performance until it was finally completed.
It was just this atmosphere which made the place the most astonishing in which I have ever been. It seemed to be drawing the celebrated and the successful as a magnet might iron, and yet it offered conditions which one might presume they would be most opposed to. No one here was really any one, however much he might be outside. Our host was all. He had a great blazing personality which dominated everybody, and he did not hesitate to show before one and all that he did so do.
Breakfast here consisted of a cereal, a chop and coffee—plentiful but very plain, I thought. After breakfast, between eight-thirty and eleven, we were free to do as we chose: write letters, pack our bags if we were leaving, do up our laundry to be sent out, read, or merely sit about. At eleven, or ten-thirty, according to the nature of the exercise, one had to join a group, either one that was to do the long or short block, as they were known here, or one that was to ride horseback, all exercises being so timed that by proper execution one would arrive at the bathroom door in time to bathe, dress and take ten minutes' rest before luncheon. These exercises were simple enough in themselves, consisting, as they did in the case of the long and the short blocks (the long block seven, the short four miles in length), of our walking, or walking and running betimes, about or over courses laid up hill and down dale, over or through unpaved mudroads in many instances, along dry or wet beds of brooks or streams, and across stony or weedy fields, often still damp with dew or the spring rains. But in most cases, when people had not taken any regular exercise for a long time, this was by no means easy. The first day I thought I should never make it, and I was by no means a poor walker. Others, the new ones especially, often gave out and had to be sent for, or came in an hour late to be most severely and irritatingly ragged by the host. He seemed to all but despise weakness and had apparently a thousand disagreeable ways of showing it.
"If you want to see what poor bags of mush some people can become," he once said in regard to some poor specimen who had seemingly had great difficulty in doing the short block, "look at this. Here comes a man sent out to do four measly country miles in fifty minutes, and look at him. You'd think he was going to die. He probably thinks so himself. In New York he'd do seventeen miles in a night running from barroom to barroom or one lobster palace to another—that's a good name for them, by the way—and never say a word. But out here in the country, with plenty of fresh air and a night's rest and a good breakfast, he can't even do four miles in fifty minutes! Think of it! And he probably thinks of himself as a man—boasts before his friends, or his wife, anyhow. Lord!"
A day or two later there arrived here a certain major of the United States Army, a large, broad-chested, rather pompous person of about forty-eight or -nine, who from taking his ease in one sinecure and another had finally reached the place where he was unable to endure certain tests (or he thought so) which were about to be made with a view to retiring certain officers grown fat in the service. As he explained to Culhane, and the latter was always open and ribald afterward in his comments on those who offered explanations of any kind, his plan was to take the course here in order to be able to make the difficult tests later.
Culhane resented this, I think. He resented people using him or his methods to get anywhere, do anything more in life than he could do, and yet he received them. He felt, and I think in the main that he was right, that they looked down on him because of his lowly birth and purely material and mechanical career, and yet having attained some distinction by it he could not forego this work which raised him, in a way, to a position of dominance over these people. Now the sight of presumably so efficient a person in need of aid or exercise, to be built up, was all that was required to spur him on to the most waspish or wolfish attitude imaginable. In part at least he argued, I think (for in the last analysis he was really too wise and experienced to take any such petty view, although there is a subconscious "past-lack" motivating impulse in all our views), that here he was, an ex-policeman, ex-wrestler, ex-prize fighter, ex-private, ex-waiter, beef-carrier, bouncer, trainer; and here was this grand major, trained at West Point, who actually didn't know any more about life or how to take care of his body than to be compelled to come here, broken down at forty-eight, whereas he, because of his stamina and Spartan energy, had been able to survive in perfect condition until sixty and was now in a position to rebuild all these men and wastrels and to control this great institution. And to a certain extent he was right, although he seemed to forget or not to know that he was not the creator of his own great strength, by any means, impulses and tendencies over which he had no control having arranged for that.
However that may be, here was the major a suppliant for his services, and here was he, Culhane, and although the major was paying well for his minute room and his probably greatly decreased diet, still Culhane could not resist the temptation to make a show of him, to picture him as the more or less pathetic example that he was, in order perhaps that he, Culhane, might shine by contrast. Thus on the first day, having sent him around the short block with the others, it was found at twelve, when the "joggers" were expected to return, and again at twelve-thirty when they were supposed to take their places at the luncheon table, that the heavy major had not arrived. He had been seen and passed by all, of course. After the first mile or two probably he had given out and was making his way as best he might up hill and down dale, or along some more direct road, to the "shop," or maybe he had dropped out entirely, as some did, via a kindly truck or farmer's wagon, and was on his way to the nearest railway station.
At any rate, as Culhane sat down at his very small private table, which stood in the center of the dining-room and far apart from the others (a vantage point, as it were), he looked about and, not seeing the new guest, inquired, "Has any one seen that alleged army officer who arrived here this morning?"
No one could say anything more than that they had left him two or three miles back.
"I thought so," he said tersely. "There you have a fine example of the desk general and major—we had 'em in the army—men who sit in a swivel chair all day, wear a braided uniform and issue orders to other people. You'd think a man like that who had been trained at West Point and seen service in the Philippines would have sense enough to keep himself in condition. Not at all. As soon as they get a little way up in their profession they want to sit around hotel grills or society ballrooms and show off, tell how wonderful they are. Here's a man, an army officer, in such rotten shape that if I sent a good horse after him now it's ten to one he couldn't get on him. I'll have to send a truck or some such thing."
He subsided. About an hour later the major did appear, much the worse for wear. A groom with a horse had been sent out after him, and, as the latter confided to some one afterward, he "had to help the major on." From that time on, on the short block and the long, as well as on those horseback tours which every second or third morning we were supposed to take, the major was his especial target. He loved to pick on him, to tell him that he was "nearly all guts"—a phrase which literally sickened me at that time—to ask him how he expected to stay in the army if he couldn't do this or that, what good was he to the army, how could any soldier respect a thing like him, and so on ad infinitum until, while at first I pitied the major, later on I admired his pluck. Culhane foisted upon him his sorriest and boniest nag, the meanest animal he could find, yet he never complained; and although he forced on him all the foods he knew the major could not like, still there was no complaint; he insisted that he should be out and around of an afternoon when most of us lay about, allowed him no drinks whatever, although he was accustomed to them. The major, as I learned afterwards, stayed not six but twelve weeks and passed the tests which permitted him to remain in the army.
But to return to Culhane himself. The latter's method always contained this element of nag and pester which, along with his brazen reliance on and pride in his brute strength at sixty, made all these others look so puny and ineffectual. They might have brains and skill but here they were in his institution, more or less undone nervously and physically, and here he was, cold, contemptuous, not caring much whether they came, stayed or went, and laughing at them even as they raged. Now and then it was rumored that he found some single individual in whom he would take an interest, but not often. In the main I think he despised them one and all for the puny machines they were. He even despised life and the pleasures and dissipations or swinish indolence which, in his judgment, characterized most men. I recall once, for instance, his telling us how as a private in the United States Army when the division of which he was a unit was shut up in winter quarters, huddled about stoves, smoking (as he characterized them) "filthy pipes" or chewing tobacco and spitting, actually lousy, and never changing their clothes for weeks on end—how he, revolting at all this and the disease and fevers ensuing, had kept out of doors as much as possible, even in the coldest weather, and finding no other way of keeping clean the single shift of underwear and the one uniform he possessed he had, every other day or so, washed all, uniform and underwear, with or without soap as conditions might compel, in a nearby stream, often breaking the ice to get to the water, and dancing about naked in the cold, running and jumping, while they dried on bushes or the branch of a tree.
"Those poor rats," he added most contemptuously, "used to sit inside and wonder at me or laugh and jeer, hovering over their stoves, but a lot of them died that very winter, and here I am today."
And well we knew it. I used to study the faces of many of the puffy, gelatinous souls, so long confined to their comfortable offices, restaurants and homes that two hours on horseback all but wore them out, and wonder how this appealed to them. I think that in the main they took it as an illustration of either one of two things: insanity, or giant and therefore not-to-be-imitated strength.
But in regard to them Culhane was by no means so tolerant. One day, as I recall, there arrived at the sanitarium a stout and mushy-looking Hebrew, with a semi-bald pate, protruding paunch and fat arms and legs, who applied to Culhane for admission. And, as much to irritate his other guests, I think, as to torture this particular specimen into some semblance of vitality, he admitted him. And thereafter, from the hour he entered until he left about the time I did, Culhane seemed to follow him with a wolfish and savage idea. He gave him a most damnable and savage horse, one that kicked and bit, and at mounting time would place Mr. Itzky (I think his name was) up near the front of the procession where he could watch him. Always at mount-time, when we were permitted to ride, there was inside the great stable a kind of preliminary military inspection of all our accouterments, seeing that we had to saddle and bridle and bring forth our own steeds. This particular person could not saddle a horse very well nor put on his bit and bridle. The animal was inclined to rear and plunge when he came near, to fix him with an evil eye and bite at him.
And above all things Culhane seemed to value strain of this kind. If he could just make his guests feel the pressure of necessity in connection with their work he was happy. To this end he would employ the most contemptuous and grilling comment. Thus to Mr. Itzky he was most unkind. He would look over all most cynically, examining the saddles and bridles, and then say, "Oh, I see you haven't learned how to tighten a belly-band yet," or "I do believe you have your saddle hind-side to. You would if you could, that's one thing sure. How do you expect a horse to be sensible or quiet when he knows that he isn't saddled right? Any horse knows that much, and whether he has an ass for a rider. I'd kick and bite too if I were some of these horses, having a lot of damned fools and wasters to pack all over the country. Loosen that belt and fasten it right" (there might be nothing wrong with it) "and move your saddle up. Do you want to sit over the horse's rump?"
Then would come the fateful moment of mounting. There was of course the accepted and perfect way—his way: left foot in stirrup, an easy balanced spring and light descent into the seat. One should be able to slip the right foot into the right stirrup with the same motion of mounting. But imagine fifty, sixty, seventy men, all sizes, weights and differing conditions of health and mood. A number of these people had never ridden a horse before coming here and were as nervous and frightened as children. Such mounts! Such fumbling around, once they were in their saddles, for the right stirrup! And all the while Culhane would be sitting out front like an army captain on the only decent steed in the place, eyeing us with a look of infinite and weary contempt that served to increase our troubles a thousandfold.
"Well, you're all on, are you? You all do it so gracefully I like to sit here and admire you. Hulbert there throws his leg over his horse's back so artistically that he almost kicks his teeth out. And Effingham does his best to fall off on the other side. And where's Itzky? I don't even see him. Oh, yes, there he is. Well" (this to Itzky, frantically endeavoring to get one fat foot in a stirrup and pull himself up), "what about you? Can't you get your leg that high? Here's a man who for twenty-five years has been running a cloak-and-suit business and employing five hundred people, but he can't get on a horse! Imagine! Five hundred people dependent on that for their living!" (At this point, say, Itzky succeeds in mounting.) "Well, he's actually on! Now see if you can stick while we ride a block or two. You'll find the right stirrup, Itzky, just a little forward of your horse's belly on the right side—see? A fine bunch this is to lead out through a gentleman's country! Hell, no wonder I've got a bad reputation throughout this section! Well, forward, and see if you can keep from falling off."
Then we were out through the stable-door and the privet gate at a smart trot, only to burst into a headlong gallop a little farther on down the road. To the seasoned riders it was all well enough, but to beginners, those nervous about horses, fearful about themselves! The first day, not having ridden in years and being uncertain as to my skill, I could scarcely stay on. Several days later, I by then having become a reasonably seasoned rider, it was Mr. Itzky who appeared on the scene, and after him various others. On this particular trip I am thinking of, Mr. Itzky fell or rolled off and could not again mount. He was miles from the repair shop and Culhane, discovering his plight, was by no means sympathetic. We had a short ride back to where he sat lamely by the roadside viewing disconsolately the cavalcade and the country in general.
"Well, what's the matter with you now?" It was Culhane, eyeing him most severely.
"I hef hurt my foot. I kent stay on."
"You mean you'd rather walk, do you, and lead your horse?"
"Vell, I kent ride."
"All right, then, you lead your horse back to the stable if you want any lunch, and hereafter you run with the baby-class on the short block until you think you can ride without falling off. What's the good of my keeping a stable of first-class horses at the service of a lot of mush-heads who don't even know how to use 'em? All they do is ruin 'em. In a week or two, after a good horse is put in the stable, he's not fit for a gentleman to ride. They pull and haul and kick and beat, when as a matter of fact the horse has a damned sight more sense than they have."
We rode off, leaving Itzky alone. The men on either side of me—we were riding three abreast—scoffed under their breath at the statement that we were furnished decent horses. "The nerve! This nag!" "This bag of bones!" "To think a thing like this should be called a horse!" But there were no outward murmurs and no particular sympathy for Mr. Itzky. He was a fat stuff, a sweat-shop manufacturer, they would bet; let him walk and sweat.
So much for sympathy in this gay realm where all were seeking to restore their own little bodies, whatever happened.
So many of these men varied so greatly in their looks, capacities and troubles that they were always amusing. Thus I recall one lean iron manufacturer, the millionaire president of a great "frog and switch" company, who had come on from Kansas City, troubled with anaemia, neurasthenia, "nervous derangement of the heart" and various other things. He was over fifty, very much concerned about himself, his family, his business, his friends; anxious to obtain the benefits of this celebrated course of which he had heard so much. Walking or running near me on his first day, he took occasion to make inquiries in regard to Culhane, the life here, and later on confidences as to his own condition. It appeared that his chief trouble was his heart, a kind of phantom disturbance which made him fear that he was about to drop dead and which came and went, leaving him uncertain as to whether he had it or not. On entering he had confided to Culhane the mysteries of his case, and the latter had examined him, pronouncing him ("Rather roughly," as he explained to me), quite fit to do "all the silly work he would have to do here."
Nevertheless while we were out on the short block his heart was hurting him. At the same time it had been made rather clear to him that if he wished to stay here he would have to fulfill all the obligations imposed. After a mile or two or three of quick walking and jogging he was saying to me, "You know, I'm not really sure that I can do this. It's very severe, more so than I thought. My heart is not doing very well. It feels very fluttery."
"But," I said, "if he told you you could stand it, you can, I'm sure. It's not very likely he'd say you could if you couldn't. He examined you, didn't he? I don't believe he'd deliberately put a strain on any one who couldn't stand it."
"Yes," he admitted doubtfully, "that's true perhaps."
Still he continued to complain and complain and to grow more and more worried, until finally he slowed up and was lost in the background.
Reaching the gymnasium at the proper time I bathed and dressed myself quickly and waited on the balcony over the bathroom to see what would happen in this case. As a rule Culhane stood in or near the door at this time, having just returned from some route or "block" himself, to see how the others were faring. And he was there when the iron manufacturer came limping up, fifteen minutes late, one hand over his heart, the other to his mouth, and exclaiming as he drew near, "I do believe, Mr. Culhane, that I can't stand this. I'm afraid there is something the matter with my heart. It's fluttering so."
"To hell with your heart! Didn't I tell you there was nothing the matter with it? Get into the bath!"
The troubled manufacturer, overawed or reassured as the case might be, entered the bath and ten minutes later might have been seen entering the dining-room, as comfortable apparently as any one. Afterwards he confessed to me on one of our jogs that there was something about Culhane which gave him confidence and made him believe that there wasn't anything wrong with his heart—which there wasn't, I presume.
The intensely interesting thing about Culhane was this different, very original and forthright if at times brutal point of view. It was a blazing material world of which he was the center, the sun, and yet always I had the sense of very great life. With no knowledge of or interest in the superior mental sciences or arts or philosophies, still he seemed to suggest and even live them. He was in his way an exemplification of that ancient Greek regimen and stark thought which brought back the ten thousand from Cunaxa. He seemed even to suggest in his rough way historical perspective and balance. He knew men, and apparently he sensed how at best and at bottom life was to be lived, with not too much emotional or appetitive swaying in any one direction, and not too little either.
Yet in "trapseing" about this particular realm each day with ministers, lawyers, doctors, actors, manufacturers, papa's or mamma's young hopefuls and petted heirs, young scapegraces and so-called "society men" of the extreme "upper crust," stuffed and plethoric with money and as innocent of sound knowledge or necessary energy in some instances as any one might well be, one could not help speculating as to how it was that such a man, as indifferent and all but discourteous as this one, could attract them (and so many) to him. They came from all parts of America—the Pacific, the Gulf, the Atlantic and Canada—and yet, although they did not relish, him or his treatment of them, once here they stayed. Walking or running or idling about with them one could always hear from one or another that Culhane was too harsh, a "bounder," an "upstart," a "cheap pugilist" or "wrestler" at best (I myself thought so at times when I was angry), yet here they were, and here I was, and staying. He was low, vulgar—yet here we were. And yet, meditating on him, I began to think that he was really one of the most remarkable men I had ever known, for these people he dealt with were of all the most difficult to deal with. In the main they were of that order or condition of mind which springs from (1), too much wealth too easily acquired or inherited; or (2), from a blazing material success, the cause of which was their own savage self-interested viewpoint. Hence a colder and in some respects a more critical group of men I have never known. Most of them had already seen so much of life in a libertine way that there was little left to enjoy. They sniffed at almost everything, Culhane included, and yet they were obviously drawn to him. I tried to explain this to myself on the ground that there is some iron power in some people which literally compels this, whether one will or no; or that they were in the main so tired of life and so truly selfish and egotistic that it required some such different iron or caviar mood plus such a threatening regimen to make them really take an interest. Sick as they were, he was about the only thing left on which they could sharpen their teeth with any result.
As I have said, a part of Culhane's general scheme was to arrange the starting time for the walks and jogs about the long and short blocks so that if one moved along briskly he reached the sanitarium at twelve-thirty and had a few minutes in which to bathe and cool off and change his clothes before entering the dining-room, where, if not at the bathroom door beforehand, Culhane would be waiting, seated at his little table, ready to keep watch on the time and condition of all those due. Thus one day, a group of us having done the long block in less time than we should have devoted to it, came in panting and rejoicing that we had cut the record by seven minutes. We did not know that he was around. But in the dining-room as we entered he scoffed at our achievement.
"You think you're smart, don't you?" he said sourly and without any preliminary statement as to how he knew we had done it in less time. "You come out here and pay me one hundred a week and then you want to be cute and play tricks with your own money and health. I want you to remember just one thing: my reputation is just as much involved with the results here as your money. I don't need anybody's money, and I do need my orders obeyed. Now you all have watches. You just time yourselves and do that block in the time required. If you can't do it, that's one thing; I can forgive a man too weak or sick to do it. But I haven't any use for a mere smart aleck, and I don't want any more of it, see?"
That luncheon was very sad.
Another thing in connection with these luncheons and dinners, which were sharply timed to the minute, were these crisp table speeches, often made in re some particular offender or his offense, at other times mere sarcastic comments on life in general and the innate cussedness of human nature, which amused at the same time that they were certain to irritate some. For who is it that is not interested in hearing the peccadilloes of his neighbor aired?
Thus while I was there, there was a New York society man by the name of Blake, who unfortunately was given to severe periods of alcoholism, the results of which were, after a time, nervous disorders which sent him here. In many ways he was as amiable and courteous and considerate a soul as one could meet anywhere. He had that smooth, gracious something about him—good nature, for one thing, a kind of understanding and sympathy for various forms of life—which left him highly noncensorious, if genially examining at times. But his love of drink, or rather his mild attempts here to arrange some method by which in this droughty world he could obtain a little, aroused in Culhane not so much opposition as an amused contempt, for at bottom I think he really liked the man. Blake was so orderly, so sincere in his attempts to fulfill conditions, only about once every week or so he would suggest that he be allowed to go to White Plains or Rye, or even New York, on some errand or other—most of which requests were promptly and nearly always publicly refused. For although Culhane had his private suite at one end of the great building, where one might suppose one might go to make a private plea, still one could never find him there. He refused to receive complaints or requests or visits of any kind there. If you wanted to speak to him you had to do it when he was with the group in its entirety—a commonsense enough policy. But just the same there were those who had reasonable requests or complaints, and these, by a fine intuition as to who was who in this institution and what might be expected of each one, he managed to hear very softly, withdrawing slowly as they talked or inviting them into the office. In the main however the requests were very much like those of Blake—men who wanted to get off somewhere for a day or two, feeling, as they did after a week or two or three, especially fit and beginning to think no doubt of the various comforts and pleasures which the city offered.
But to all these he was more or less adamant. By hook or by crook, by special arrangements with friends or agents in nearby towns and the principal showy resorts of New York, he managed to know, providing they did leave the grounds, either with or without his consent, about where they were and what they had done, and in case any of his rules or their agreements were broken their privileges were thereafter cut off or they were promptly ejected, their trunks being set out on the roadway in front of the estate and they being left to make their way to shelter elsewhere as best they might.
On one occasion, however, Blake had been allowed to go to New York over Saturday and Sunday to attend to some urgent business, as he said, he on his honor having promised to avoid the white lights. Nevertheless he did not manage so to do but instead, in some comfortable section of that region, was seen drinking enough to last him until perhaps he should have another opportunity to return to the city.
On his return to the "shop" on Monday morning or late Sunday night, Culhane pretended not to see him until noonday lunch, when, his jog over the long block done with and his bath taken, he came dapperly into the dining-room, wishing to look as innocent and fit as possible. But Culhane was there before him at his little table in the center of the room, and patting the head of one of the two pure-blooded collies that always followed him about on the grounds or in the house, began as follows:
"A dog," he said very distinctly and in his most cynical tone and apparently apropos of nothing, which usually augured that the lightning of his criticism was about to strike somewhere, "is so much better than the average man that it's an insult to the dog to compare them. The dog's really decent. He has no sloppy vices. You set a plate of food before a regularly-fed, blooded dog, and he won't think of gorging himself sick or silly. He eats what he needs, and then stops. So does a cat" (which is of course by no means true, but still—). "A dog doesn't get a red nose from drinking too much." By now all eyes were turning in the direction of Blake, whose nose was faintly tinged. "He doesn't get gonorrhea or syphilis." The united glances veered in the direction of three or four young scapegraces of wealth, all of whom were suspected of these diseases. "He doesn't hang around hotel bars and swill and get his tongue thick and talk about how rich he is or how old his family is." (This augured that Blake did such things, which I doubt, but once more all eyes were shifted to him.) "He doesn't break his word. Within the limits of his poor little brain he's faithful. He does what he thinks he's called upon to do.
"But you take a man—more especially a gentleman—one of these fellows who is always very pointed in emphasizing that he is a gentleman" (which Blake never did). "Let him inherit eight or ten millions, give him a college education, let him be socially well connected, and what does he do? Not a damned thing if he can help it except contract vices—run from one saloon to another, one gambling house to another, one girl to another, one meal to another. He doesn't need to know anything necessarily. He may be the lowest dog physically and in every other way, and still he's a gentleman—because he has money, wears spats and a high hat. Why I've seen fifty poor boob prize fighters in my time who could put it all over most of the so-called gentlemen I have ever seen. They kept their word. They tried to be physically fit. They tried to stand up in the world and earn their own living and be somebody." (He was probably thinking of himself.) "But a gentleman wants to boast of his past and his family, to tell you that he must go to the city on business—his lawyers or some directors want to see him. Then he swills around at hotel bars, stays with some of his lady whores, and then comes back here and expects me to pull him into shape again, to make his nose a little less red. He thinks he can use my place to fall back on when he can't go any longer, to fix him up to do some more swilling later on.
"Well, I want to serve notice on all so-called gentlemen here, and one gentleman in particular" (and he heavily and sardonically emphasized the words), "that it won't do. This isn't a hospital attached to a whorehouse or a saloon. And as for the trashy little six hundred paid here, I don't need it. I've turned away more men who have been here once or twice and have shown me that they were just using this place and me as something to help them go on with their lousy drinking and carousing, than would fill this building. Sensible men know it. They don't try to use me. It's only the wastrels, or their mothers or fathers who bring their boys and husbands and cry, who try to use me, and I take 'em once or twice, but not oftener. When a man goes out of here cured, I know he is cured. I never want to see him again. I want him to go out in the world and stand up. I don't want him to come back here in six months sniveling to be put in shape again. He disgusts me. He makes me sick. I feel like ordering him off the place, and I do, and that's the end of him. Let him go and bamboozle somebody else. I've shown him all I know. There's no mystery. He can do as much for himself, once he's been here, as I can. If he won't, well and good. And I'm saying one thing more: There's one man here to whom this particularly applies today. This is his last call. He's been here twice. When he goes out this time he can't come back. Now see if some of you can remember some of the things I've been telling you."
He subsided and opened his little pint of wine.
Another day while I was there he began as follows:
"If there's one class of men that needs to be improved in this country, it's lawyers. I don't know why it is, but there's something in the very nature of the work of a lawyer which appears to make him cynical and to want to wear a know-it-all look. Most lawyers are little more than sharper crooks than the crooks they have to deal with. They're always trying to get in on some case or other where they have to outwit the law, save some one from getting what he justly deserves, and then they are supposed to be honest and high-minded! Think of it! To judge by some of the specimens I get up here," and then some lawyer in the place would turn a shrewd inquiring glance in his direction or steadfastly gaze at his plate or out the window, while the others stared at him, "you would think they were the salt of the earth or that they were following a really noble profession or that they were above or better than other men in their abilities. Well, if being conniving and tricky are fine traits, I suppose they are, but personally I can't see it. Generally speaking, they're physically the poorest fish I get here. They're slow and meditative and sallow, mostly because they get too little exercise, I presume. And they're never direct and enthusiastic in an argument. A lawyer always wants to stick in an 'if' or a 'but,' to get around you in some way. He's never willing to answer you quickly or directly. I've watched 'em now for nearly fifteen years, and they're all more or less alike. They think they're very individual and different, but they're not. Most of them don't know nearly as much about life as a good, all-around business or society man," this in the absence of any desire to discuss these two breeds for the time being. "For the life of me I could never see why a really attractive woman would ever want to marry a lawyer"—and so he would talk on, revealing one little unsatisfactory trait after another in connection with the tribe, sand-papering their raw places as it were, until you would about conclude, supposing you had never heard him talk concerning any other profession, that lawyers were the most ignoble, the pettiest, the most inefficient physically and mentally, of all the men he had ever encountered; and in his noble savage state there would not be one to disagree with him, for he had such an animal, tiger-like mien that you had the feeling that instead of an argument you would get a physical rip which would leave you bleeding for days.
The next day, or a day or two or four or six later—according to his mood—it would be doctors or merchants or society men or politicians he would discourse about—and, kind heaven, what a drubbing they would get! He seemed always to be meditating on the vulnerable points of his victims, anxious (and yet presumably not) to show them what poor, fallible, shabby, petty and all but drooling creatures they were. Thus in regard to merchants:
"The average man who has a little business of some kind, a factory or a wholesale or brokerage house or a hotel or a restaurant, usually has a distinctly middle-class mind." At this all the merchants and manufacturers were likely to give a very sharp ear. "As a rule, you'll find that they know just the one little line with which they're connected, and nothing more. One man knows all about cloaks and suits" (this may have been a slap at poor Itzky) "or he knows a little something about leather goods or shoes or lamps or furniture, and that's all he knows. If he's an American he'll buckle down to that little business and work night and day, sweat blood and make every one else connected with him sweat it, underpay his employees, swindle his friends, half-starve himself and his family, in order to get a few thousand dollars and seem as good as some one else who has a few thousand. And yet he doesn't want to be different from—he wants to be just like—the other fellow. If some one in his line has a house up on the Hudson or on Riverside Drive, when he gets his money he wants to go there and live. If the fellow in his line, or some other that he knows something about, belongs to a certain club, he has to belong to it even if the club doesn't want him or he wouldn't look well in it. He wants to have the same tailor, the same grocer, smoke the same brand of cigars and go to the same summer resort as the other fellow. They even want to look alike. God! And then when they're just like every one else, they think they're somebody. They haven't a single idea outside their line, and yet because they've made money they want to tell other people how to live and think. Imagine a rich butcher or cloak-maker, or any one else, presuming to tell me how to think or live!"
He stared about him as though he saw many exemplifications of his picture present. And it was always interesting to see how those whom his description really did fit look as though he could not possibly be referring to them.
Of all types or professions that came here, I think he disliked doctors most. The reason was of course that the work they did or were about to do in the world bordered on that which he was trying to accomplish, and the chances were that they sniffed at or at least critically examined what he was doing with an eye to finding its weak spots. In many cases no doubt he fancied that they were there to study and copy his methods and ideas, without having the decency later on to attribute their knowledge to him. It was short shrift for any one of them with ideas or "notions" unfriendly to him advanced in his presence. For a little while during my stay there was a smooth-faced, rather solid physically and decidedly self-opinionated mentally, doctor who ate at the same small table as I and who was never tired of airing his views, medical and otherwise. He confided to me rather loftily that there was, to be sure, something to Culhane's views and methods but that they were "over-emphasized here, over-emphasized." Still, one could over-emphasize the value of drugs too. As for himself he had decided to achieve a happy medium if possible, and for this reason (for one) he had come here to study Culhane.
As for Culhane, in spite of the young doctor's condescension and understanding, or perhaps better yet because of it, he thoroughly disliked, barely tolerated, him, and was never tired of commenting on little dancing medics with their "pill cases" and easily acquired book knowledge, boasting of their supposed learning "which somebody else had paid for," as he once said—their fathers, of course. And when they were sick, some of them at least, they had to come out here to him, or they came to steal his theory and start a shabby grafting sanitarium of their own. He knew them.
One noon we were at lunch. Occasionally before seating himself at his small central table he would walk or glance about and, having good eyes, would spy some little defect or delinquency somewhere and of course immediately act upon it. One of the rules of the repair shop was that you were to eat what was put before you, especially when it differed from what your table companion received. Thus a fat man at a table with a lean one might receive a small portion of lean meat, no potatoes and no bread or one little roll, whereas his lean acquaintance opposite would be receiving a large portion of fat meat, a baked or boiled potato, plenty of bread and butter, and possibly a side dish of some kind. Now it might well be, as indeed was often the case, that each would be dissatisfied with his apportionment and would attempt to change plates.
But this was the one thing that Culhane would not endure. So upon one occasion, passing near the table at which sat myself and the above-mentioned doctor, table-mates for the time being, he noticed that he was not eating his carrots, a dish which had been especially prepared for him, I imagine—for if one unconsciously ignored certain things the first day or two of his stay, those very things would be all but rammed down his throat during the remainder of his stay; a thing concerning which one guest and another occasionally cautioned newcomers. However this may have been in this particular case, he noticed the uneaten carrots and, pausing a moment, observed:
"What's the matter? Aren't you eating your carrots?" We had almost finished eating.
"Who, me?" replied the medic, looking up. "Oh, no, I never eat carrots, you know. I don't like them."
"Oh, don't you?" said Culhane sweetly. "You don't like them, and so you don't eat them! Well, suppose you eat them here. They may do you a little good just as a change."
"But I never eat carrots," retorted the medic tersely and with a slight show of resentment or opposition, scenting perhaps a new order.
"No, not outside perhaps, but here you do. You eat carrots here, see?"
"Yes, but why should I eat them if I don't like them? They don't agree with me. Must I eat something that doesn't agree with me just because it's a rule or to please you?"
"To please me, or the carrots, or any damned thing you please—but eat 'em."
The doctor subsided. For a day or two he went about commenting on what a farce the whole thing was, how ridiculous to make any one eat what was not suited to him, but just the same while he was there he ate them.
As for myself, I was very fond of large boiled potatoes and substantial orders of fat and lean meat, and in consequence, having been so foolish as to show this preference, I received but the weakest, most contemptible and puling little spuds and pale orders of meat—with, it is true, plenty of other "side dishes"; whereas a later table-mate of mine, a distressed and neurasthenic society man, was receiving—I soon learned he especially abhorred them—potatoes as big as my two fists.
"Now look at that! Now look at that!" he often said peevishly and with a kind of sickly whine in his voice when he saw one being put before him. "He knows I don't like potatoes, and see what I get! And look at the little bit of a thing he gives you! It's a shame, the way he nags people, especially over this food question. I don't think there's a thing to it. I don't think eating a big potato does me a bit of good, or you the little one, and yet I have to eat the blank-blank things or get out. And I need to get on my feet just now."
"Well, cheer up," I said sympathetically and with an eye on the large potato perhaps. "He isn't always looking, and we can fix it. You mash up your big potato and put butter and salt on it, and I'll do the same with my little one. Then when he's not looking we'll shift."
"Oh, that's all right," he commented, "but we'd better look out. If he sees us he'll be as sore as the devil."
This system worked well enough for a time, and for days I was getting all the potato I wanted and congratulating myself on my skill, when one day as I was slyly forking potatoes out of his dish, moved helpfully in my direction, I saw Culhane approaching and feared that our trick had been discovered. It had. Perhaps some snaky waitress has told on us, or he had seen us, even from his table.
"Now I know what's going on here at this table," he growled savagely, "and I want you two to cut it out. This big boob here" (he was referring to my esteemed self) "who hasn't strength of will or character enough to keep himself in good health and has to be brought up here by his brother, hasn't brains enough to see that when I plan a thing for his benefit it is for his benefit, and not mine. Like most of the other damned fools that come up here and waste their money and my time, he thinks I'm playing some cute game with him—tag or something that will let him show how much cuter he is than I am. And he's supposed to be a writer and have a little horse-sense! His brother claims it, anyhow. And as for this other simp here," and now he was addressing the assembled diners while nodding toward my friend, "it hasn't been three weeks since he was begging to know what I could do for him. And now look at him—entering into a petty little game of potato-cheating!
"I swear," he went on savagely, talking to the room in general, "sometimes I don't know what to do with such damned fools. The right thing would be to set these two, and about fifty others in this place, out on the main road with their trunks and let them go to hell. They don't deserve the attention of a conscientious man. I prohibit gambling—what happens? A lot of nincompoops and mental lightweights with more money than brains sneak off into a field of an afternoon on the excuse that they are going for a walk, and then sit down and lose or win a bucket of money just to show off what hells of fellows they are, what sports, what big 'I ams.' I prohibit cigarette-smoking, not because I think it's literally going to kill anybody but because I think it looks bad here, sets a bad example to a lot of young wasters who come here and who ought to be broken of the vice, and besides, because I don't like cigarette-smoking here—don't want it and won't have it. What happens? A lot of sissies and mamma's boys and pet heirs, whose fathers haven't got enough brains to cut 'em off and make 'em get out and work, come up here, sneak in cigarettes or get the servants to, and then hide out behind the barn or a tree down in the lot and sneak and smoke like a lot of cheap schoolboys. God, it makes me sick! What's the use of a man working out a fact during a lifetime and letting other people have the benefit of it—not because he needs their money, but that they need his help—if all the time he is going to have such cattle to deal with? Not one out of twenty or forty men that come here really wants me to help him or to help himself. What he wants is to have some one drive him in the way he ought to go, kick him into it, instead of his buckling down and helping himself. What's the good of bothering with such damned fools? A man ought to take the whole pack and run 'em off the place with a dog-whip." He waved his hand in the air. "It's sickening. It's impossible.
"As for you two," he added, turning to us, but suddenly stopped. "Hell, what's the use! Why should I bother with you? Do as you damned well please, and stay sick or die!"
He turned on his heel and walked out of the dining-room, leaving us to sit there. I was so dumbfounded by the harangue our pseudo-cleverness had released that I could scarcely speak. My appetite was gone and I felt wretched. To think of having been the cause of this unnecessary tongue-lashing to the others! And I felt that we were, and justly, the target for their rather censorious eyes.
"My God!" moaned my companion most dolefully. "That's always the way with me. Nothing that I ever do comes out right. All my life I've been unlucky. My mother died when I was seven, and my father's never had any use for me. I started in three or four businesses four or five years ago, but none of them ever came out right. My yacht burned last summer, and I've had neurasthenia for two years." He catalogued a list of ills that would have done honor to Job himself, and he was worth nine millions, so I heard!
Two or three additional and amusing incidents, and I am done.
One of the most outre things in connection with our rides about the countryside was Culhane's attitude toward life and the natives and passing strangers as representing life. Thus one day, as I recall very well, we were riding along a backwoods country road, very shadowy and branch-covered, a great company of us four abreast, when suddenly and after his very military fashion there came a "Halt! Right by fours! Right dress! Face!" and presently we were all lined up in a row facing a greensward which had suddenly been revealed to the left and on which, and before a small plumber's stove standing outside some gentleman's stable, was stretched a plumber and his helper. The former, a man of perhaps thirty-five, the latter a lad of, say, fourteen or fifteen, were both very grimy and dirty, but taking their ease in the morning sun, a little pot of lead on the stove being waited for, I presume, that it might boil.
Culhane, leaving his place at the head of the column, returned to the center nearest the plumber and his helper and pointing at them and addressing us in a very clear voice, said:
"There you have it. There's American labor for you, at its best—union labor, the poor, downtrodden workingman. Look at him." We all looked. "This poor hard-working plumber here," and at that the latter stirred and sat up, scarcely even now grasping what it was all about, so suddenly had we descended upon him, "earns or demands sixty cents an hour, and this poor sweating little helper here has to have forty. They're working now. They're waiting for that little bit of lead to boil, at a dollar an hour between them. They can't do a thing, either of 'em, until it does, and lead has to be well done, you know, before it can be used.
"Well, now, these two here," he continued, suddenly shifting his tone from one of light sarcasm to a kind of savage contempt, "imagine they are getting along, making life a lot better for themselves, when they lie about this way and swindle another man out of his honest due in connection with the work he is paying for. He can't help himself. He can't know everything. If he did he'd probably find what's wrong in there and fix it himself in three minutes. But if he did that and the union heard of it they'd boycott him. They'd come around and blackmail him, blow up his barn, or make him pay for the work he did himself. I know 'em. I have to deal with 'em. They fix my pipes in the same way that these two are fixing his—lying on the grass at a dollar an hour. And they want five dollars a pound for every bit of lead they use. If they forget anything and have to go back to town for it, you pay for it, at a dollar an hour. They get on the job at nine and quit at four, in the country. If you say anything, they quit altogether—they're union laborers—and they won't let any one else do it, either. Once they're on the job they have to rest every few minutes, like these two. Something has to boil, or they have to wait for something. Isn't it wonderful! Isn't it beautiful! And all of us of course are made free and equal! They're just as good as we are! If you work and make money and have any plumbing to do you have to support 'em—Right by fours! Guide right! Forward!" and off we trotted, breaking into a headlong gallop a little farther on as if he wished to outrun the mood which was holding him at the moment.
The plumber and his assistant, fully awake now to the import of what had occurred, stared after us. The journeyman plumber, who was short and fat, sat and blinked. At last he recovered his wits sufficiently to cry, "Aw, go to hell, you —— —— ——!" but by that time we were well along the road and I am not sure that Culhane even heard.
Another day as we were riding along a road which led into a nearby city of, say, twenty thousand, we encountered a beer truck of great size and on its seat so large and ruddy and obese a German as one might go a long way and still not see. It was very hot. The German was drowsy and taking his time in the matter of driving. As we drew near, Culhane suddenly called a halt and, lining us up as was his rule, called to the horses of the brewery wagon, who also obeyed his lusty "Whoa!" The driver, from his high perch above, stared down on us with mingled curiosity and wonder.
"Now, here's an illustration of what I mean," Culhane began, apropos of nothing at all, "when I say that the word man ought to be modified or changed in some way so that when we use it we would mean something more definite than we mean now. That thing you see sitting up on that wagon-seat there—call that a man? And then call me one? Or a man like Charles A. Dana? Or a man like General Grant? Hell! Look at him! Look at his shape! Look at that stomach! You think a thing like that—call it a man if you want to—has any brains or that he's really any better than a pig in a sty? If you turn a horse out to shift for himself he'll eat just enough to keep in condition; same way with a dog, a cat or a bird. But let one of these things, that some people call a man, come along, give him a job and enough money or a chance to stuff himself, and see what happens. A thing like that connects himself with one end of a beer hose and then he thinks he's all right. He gets enough guts to start a sausage factory, and then he blows up, I suppose, or rots. Think of it! And we call him a man—or some do!"
During this amazing and wholly unexpected harangue (I never saw him stop any one before), the heavy driver, who did not understand English very well, first gazed and then strained with his eyebrows, not being able quite to make out what it was all about. From the chuckling and laughter that finally set up in one place and another he began dimly to comprehend that he was being made fun of, used as an unsatisfactory jest of some kind. Finally his face clouded for a storm and his eyes blazed, the while his fat red cheeks grew redder. "Donnervetter!" he began gutturally to roar. "Schweine hunde! Hunds knoche! Nach der polizei soll man reufen!"
I for one pulled my horse cautiously back, as he cracked a great whip, and, charging savagely through us, drove on. Culhane, having made his unkind comments, gave orders for our orderly formation once more and calmly led us away.
Perhaps the most amusing phase of him was his opposition to and contempt for inefficiency of any kind. If he asked you to do anything, no matter what, and you didn't at once leap to the task ready and willing and able so to do, he scarcely had words enough with which to express himself. On one occasion, as I recall all too well, he took us for a drive in his tally-ho—one or two or three that he possessed—a great lumbering, highly lacquered, yellow-wheeled vehicle, to which he attached seven or eight or nine horses, I forget which. This tally-ho ride was a regular Sunday morning or afternoon affair unless it was raining, a call suddenly sounding from about the grounds somewhere at eleven or at two in the afternoon, "Tally-ho at eleven-thirty" (or two-thirty, as the case might be). "All aboard!" Gathering all the reins in his hands and perching himself in the high seat above, with perhaps one of his guests beside him, all the rest crowded willy-nilly on the seats within and on top, he would carry us off, careening about the countryside most madly, several of his hostlers acting as liveried footmen or outriders and one of them perched up behind on the little seat, the technical name of which I have forgotten, waving and blowing the long silver trumpet, the regulation blasts on which had to be exactly as made and provided for such occasions. Often, having been given no warning as to just when it was to be, there would be a mad scramble to get into our de rigueur Sunday clothes, for Culhane would not endure any flaws in our appearance, and if we were not ready and waiting when one of his stablemen swung the vehicle up to the door at the appointed time he was absolutely furious.
On the particular occasion I have in mind we all clambered on in good time, all spick and span and in our very best, shaved, powdered, hands appropriately gloved, our whiskers curled and parted, our shoes shined, our hats brushed; and up in front was Culhane, gentleman de luxe for the occasion, his long-tailed whip looped exactly as it should be, no doubt, ready to be flicked out over the farthest horse's head, and up behind was the trumpeter—high hat, yellow-topped boots, a uniform of some grand color, I forget which.
But, as it turned out on this occasion, there had been a hitch at the last minute. The regular hostler or stableman who acted as footman extraordinary and trumpeter plenipotentiary, the one who could truly and ably blow this magnificent horn, was sick or his mother was dead. At any rate, there he wasn't. And in order not to irritate Culhane, a second hostler had been dressed and given his seat and horn—only he couldn't blow it. As we began to clamber in I heard him asking, "Can any of you gentleman blow the trumpet? Do any of you gentleman know the regular trumpet call?"
No one responded, although there was much discussion in a low key. Some could, or thought they could, but hesitated to assume so frightful a risk. At the same time Culhane, hearing the fuss and knowing perhaps that his substitute could not trumpet, turned grimly around and said, "Say, do you mean to say there isn't any one back there who knows how to blow that thing? What's the matter with you, Caswell?" he called to one, and getting only mumbled explanations from that quarter, called to another, "How about you, Drewberry? Or you, Crashaw?"
All three apologized briskly. They were terrified by the mere thought of trying. Indeed no one seemed eager to assume the responsibility, until finally he became so threatening and assured us so volubly that unless some immediate and cheerful response were made he would never again waste one blank minute on a lot of blank-blank this and thats, that one youth, a rash young society somebody from Rochester, volunteered more or less feebly that he "thought" that "maybe he could manage it." He took a seat directly under the pompously placed trumpeter, and we were off.
"Heigh-ho!" Out the gate and down the road and up a nearby slope at a smart clip, all of us gazing cheerfully and possibly vainly about, for it was a bright day and a gay country. Now the trumpeter, as is provided for on all such occasions, lifted the trumpet to his lips and began on the grandiose "ta-ra-ta-ta," but to our grief and pain, although he got through fairly successfully on his first attempt, there was one place where there was a slight hitch, a "false crack," as some one rowdyishly remarked. Culhane, although tucking up his lines and stiffening his back irritably at this flaw, said nothing. For after all a poor trumpeter was better than none at all. A little later, however, the trumpeter having hesitated to begin again, he called back, "Well, what about the horn? What about the horn? Can't you do something with it? Have you quit for the day?"
Up went the horn once more, and a most noble and encouraging "Ta-ra-ta-ta" was begun, but just at the critical point, and when we were all most prayerfully hoping against hope, as it were, that this time he would round the dangerous curves of it gracefully and come to a grand finish, there was a most disconcerting and disheartening squeak. It was pathetic, ghastly. As one man we wilted. What would Culhane say to that? We were not long in doubt. "Great Christ!" he shouted, looking back and showing a countenance so black that it was positively terrifying. "Who did that? Throw him off! What do you think—that I want the whole country to know I'm airing a lot of lunatics? Somebody who can blow that thing, take it and blow it, for God's sake! I'm not going to drive around here without a trumpeter!"
For a few moments there was more or less painful gabbling in all the rows, pathetic whisperings and "go ons" or eager urgings of one and another to sacrifice himself upon the altar of necessity, insistences by the ex-trumpeter that he had blown trumpets in his day as good as any one—what the deuce had got into him anyhow? It must be the horn!
"Well," shouted Culhane finally, as a stop-gap to all this, "isn't any one going to blow that thing? Do you mean to tell me that I'm hauling all of you around, with not a man among you able to blow a dinky little horn? What's the use of my keeping a lot of fancy vehicles in my barn when all I have to deal with is a lot of shoe salesmen and floorwalkers? Hell! Any child can blow it. It's as easy as a fish-horn. If I hadn't these horses to attend to I'd blow it myself. Come on—come on! Kerrigan, what's the matter with you blowing it?"
"The truth is, Mr. Culhane," explained Mr. Kerrigan, the very dapper and polite heir of a Philadelphia starch millionaire, "I haven't had any chance to practice with one of those for several years. I'll try it if you want me to, but I can't guarantee—"
"Try!" insisted Culhane violently. "You can't do any worse than that other mutt, if you blow for a million years. Blow it! Blow it!"
Mr. Kerrigan turned back and being very cheerfully tendered the horn by the last failure, wetted and adjusted his lips, lifted it upward and backward—and—
It was pathetic. It was positively dreadful, the wheezing, grinding sounds that were emitted.
"God!" shouted Culhane, pulling up the coach to a dead stop. "Stop that! Whoa! Whoa!!! Do you mean to say that that's the best you can do? Well, this finishes me! Whoa! What kind of a bunch of cattle have I got up here, anyhow? Whoa! And out in this country too where I'm known and where they know all about such things! God! Whoa! Here I spend thousands of dollars to get together an equipment that will make a pleasant afternoon for a crowd of gentlemen, and this is what I draw—hams! A lot of barflies who never saw a tally-ho! Well, I'm done! I'm through! I'll split the damned thing up for firewood before I ever take it out again! Get down! Get out, all of you! I'll not haul one of you back a step! Walk back or anywhere you please—to hell, for all I care! I'm through! Get out! I'm going to turn around and get back to the barn as quick as I can—up some alley if I can find one. To think of having such a bunch of hacks to deal with!"
Humbly and wearily we climbed down and, while he drove savagely on to some turning-place, stood about first in small groups, then by twos and threes began making our way—rather gingerly, I must confess, in our fine clothes—along the winding road back to the place on the hill. But such swearing! Such un-Sabbath-like comments! The number of times his sturdy Irish soul was wished into innermost and almost sacrosanct portions of Sheol! He was cursed from more angles and in more artistically and architecturally nobly constructed phrases and even paragraphs than any human being that I have ever heard of before or since, phrases so livid and glistening that they smoked.
Talk about the carved ivories of speech! The mosaics of verbal precious stones!
You should have heard us on our way back!
And still we stayed.
* * * * *
Some two years later I was passing this place in company with some friends, when I asked my host, who also knew of the place, to turn in. During my stay it had been the privilege and custom among those who knew much of this institution to drive through the grounds and past the very doors of the "repair shop," even to stop if Culhane chanced to be visible and talking to or at least greeting him, in some cases. A custom of Culhane's was, in the summer time, to have erected on the lawn a large green-and-white striped marquee tent, a very handsome thing indeed, in which was placed a field-officer's table and several camp chairs, and some books and papers. Here of a hot day, when he was not busy with us, he would sit and read. And when he was in here or somewhere about, a little pennant was run up, possibly as guide to visiting guests or friends. At any rate, it was the presence of this pennant which caused me to know that he was about and to wish that I might have a look at him once more, great lion that he was. As "guests," none of us were ever allowed to come within more than ten feet of it, let alone in it. As passing visitors, however, we might, and many did, stop, remind him that we had once been his humble slaves, and ask leave to congratulate him on his health and sturdy years. At such times, if the visitors looked interesting enough, or he remembered them well, he would deign to come to the tent-fly and, standing there a la Napoleon at Lodi or Grant in the Wilderness, be for the first time in his relations with them a bit civil.
Anyway, on this occasion, urged on by curiosity to see my liege once more and also to learn whether he would remember me at all, I had my present host roll his car up to the tent door, where Culhane was reading. Feeling that by this venturesome deed I had "let myself in for it" and had to "make a showing," I climbed briskly out and, approaching, recalled myself to him. With a semi-wry expression, half smile, half contemptuous curl of the corners of his mouth, he recalled me and took my extended hand; then seeing that possibly my friends if not myself looked interesting, he arose and came to the door. I introduced them—one a naval officer of distinction, the other the owner of a great estate some miles farther on. For the first time in my relations with him I had an opportunity to note how grandly gracious he could be. He accepted my friends' congratulations as to the view with a princely nod and suggested that on other days it was even better. He was soon to be busy now or he would have some one show my friends through the shop. Some Saturday afternoon, if they would telephone or stop in passing, he would oblige.
I noted at once that he had not aged in the least. He was sixty-two or -three now and as vigorous and trim as ever. And now he treated me as courteously and formally as though he had never browbeaten me in the least. "Good heavens," I said, "how much better to be a visitor than a guest!" After a moment or two we offered many thanks and sped on, but not without many a backward glance on my part, for the place fascinated me. That simply furnished institution! That severe regimen! This latter-day Stoic and Spartan in his tent! And, above all things, and the most astounding to me, so little could one know him, the book he had been reading and which he had laid upon his little table as I entered—I could not help noting the title for he laid it back up, open face down—was Lecky's "History of European Morals"!
Two years after this visit, in a serious attempt to set down what I really did think of him, I arranged the following thoughts with which I closed my sketch then and which I now append for what they may be worth. They represented my best thought concerning him then:
"Thomas Culhane belongs to that class of society which the preachers and the world's army of conventional merchants, lawyers, judges and reputable citizens generally are presumably, if one may judge by the moral and religious literature of the day, trying to reach and reform. Yet here at his sanitarium are gathered representatives of those same orders, the so-called better element. And here we see them suddenly dominated, mind and soul, by this being whom they, theoretically at least, look upon as a brand to be snatched from the burning.
"As the Church and society view Culhane, so they view all life outside their own immediate circles. Culhane is in fact a conspicuous figure among the semi-taboo. He has been referred to in many an argument and platform and pulpit and in the press as a type of man whose influence is supposed to be vitiating. Now a minister enters the sanitarium, broken down by his habits of life, and this same Culhane is able to penetrate him, to see that his dogmatic and dictatorial mental habits are the cause of his ailment, and he has the moral courage to shock him, to drag him by apparently brutal processes out of his rut. He reads the man accurately, he knows him better than he knows himself, and he effects a cure.
"This astonishing condition is certainly a new light for those seeking to labor among men. Those who are successful gamblers, pugilists, pickpockets, saloon-keepers, book-makers, jockeys and the like are so by reason of their intelligence, their innate mental acumen and perception. It is a fact that in the sporting world and among the unconventional men-about-town you will often find as good if not better judges of human nature than elsewhere. Contact with a rough and ready and all-too-revealing world teaches them much. The world's customary pretensions and delusions are in the main ripped away. They are bruised by rough facts. Often the men gathered in some such cafe and whom preachers and moralists are most ready to condemn have a clearer perception of preachers, church organizations and reformers and their relative importance in the multitudinous life of the world than the preachers, church congregations and reformers have of those in the cafe or the world outside to which they belong.
"This is why, in my humble judgment, the Church and those associated with its aims make no more progress than they do. While they are consciously eager to better the world, they are so wrapped up in themselves and their theories, so hampered by their arbitrary and limited conceptions of good and evil, that the great majority of men move about them unseen, except in a far-away and superficial manner. Men are not influenced at arm's length. It would be interesting to know if some day a preacher or judge, who, offended by Mr. Culhane's profanity and brutality, will be able to reach the gladiator and convert him to his views as readily as the gladiator is able to rid him of his ailment."
In justice to the preachers, moralists, et cetera, I should now like to add that it is probably not any of the virtues or perfections represented by a man like Culhane with which they are quarreling, but the vices of many who are in no wise like him and do not stand for the things he stands for. At the same time, the so-called "sports" might well reply that it is not with any of the really admirable qualities of the "unco guid" that they quarrel, but their too narrow interpretations of virtue and duty and their groundless generalization as to types and classes.
Be it so.
Here is meat for a thousand controversies.
A True Patriarch
In the streets of a certain moderate-sized county seat in Missouri not many years ago might have been seen a true patriarch. Tall, white-haired, stout in body and mind, he roamed among his neighbors, dispensing sympathy and a curiously genial human interest through the leisure of his day. One might have taken him to be Walt Whitman, of whom he was the living counterpart; or, in the clear eye, high forehead and thick, appealing white hair, have seen a marked similarity to Bryant as he appeared in his later years. Already at this time he had seen man's allotted term on earth, and yet he was still strong in the councils of his people and rich in the accumulated interests of a lifetime.
At the particular time in question he was most interesting for the eccentricities which years of stalwart independence had developed, but these were lovable peculiarities and only severed from remarkable actions by the compelling power of time and his increasing infirmities. The loud, though pleasant, voice, and strong, often fiery, declamatory manner, were remnants of the days when his fellow-citizens were wholly swayed by the magnificence of his orations. Charmingly simple in manner, he still represented with it that old courtesy which made every stranger his guest. When moved by righteous indignation, there cropped out the daring and domineering insistence of one who had always followed what he considered to be the right, and who knew its power.
Even then, old as he was, if there were any topic worthy of discussion, and his fellow-citizens were in danger of going wrong, he became an haranguing prophet, as it were, a local Isaiah or Jeremiah. Every gate heard him, for he stopped on his rounds in front of each, and calling out the inhabitant poured forth such a volume of fact and argument as tended to remove all doubt of what he, at least, considered right. All of this he invariably accompanied by a magnificence of gesture worthy of a great orator.
At such times his mind, apparently, was almost wholly engrossed with these matters, and I have it from one of his daughters, who, besides being his daughter, was a sincere admirer of his, that often he might have been seen coming down his private lawn, and even the public streets when there was no one near to hear him, shaking his head, gesticulating, sometimes sweeping upward with his arms, as if addressing his fellow-citizens in assemblage.
"He used to push his big hat well back upon his forehead," she said on one occasion, "and often in winter, forgetful of the bitter cold, would take off his overcoat and carry it on his arm. Occasionally he would stop quite still, as if he were addressing a companion, and with sweeping gestures illustrate some idea or other, although, of course, there was no one present. Then, planting his big cane forcibly with each step, as though still emphasizing his recently stated ideas, he would come forward and enter the house."
The same suggestion of mental concentration might have been seen in everything that he did, and I personally have seen him leading a pet Jersey cow home for milking with the same dignity of bearing and forcefulness of manner that characterized him when he stood before his fellow-citizens at a public meeting addressing them on some important topic. He never appeared to have a sense of difference from or superiority over his fellowmen, but only the keenest sympathy with all things human. Every man was his brother, every human being honest. A cow or a horse was as much to be treated with sympathy and charity as a man or a woman. If a purse was lost, forty-nine out of every fifty men would return it without thought of reward, if you were to believe him.
In the little town where he had lived so many years, and where he finally died, he knew every living creature from cattle upwards, and could call each by name. The sick, the poor, the widows, the orphans, the insane, and dependents of all kinds, were his especial care. Every Sunday afternoon for years, it was his custom to go the rounds of the indigent, frequently carrying a basket of his good wife's dinner. This he distributed, along with consolation and advice. Occasionally he would return home of a winter's day very much engrossed with the discovery of some condition of distress hitherto unseen.
"Mother," he would say to his wife in that same oratorical manner previously noted, as he entered the house, "I've found such a poor family. They have moved into the old saloon below Solmson's. You know how open that is." This was delivered in the most dramatic style after he had indicated something important by throwing his overcoat on the bed and standing his cane in the corner. "There's a man and several children there. The mother is dead. They were on their way to Kansas, but it got so cold they've had to stop here until the winter is broken. They're without food; almost no clothing. Can't we find something for them?"
"On these occasions," said his daughter to me once, "he would, as he nearly always did, talk to himself on the way, as if he were discussing politics. But you could never tell what he was coming for."
Then with his own labor he would help his wife seek out the odds and ends that could be spared, and so armed, would return, arguing by the way as if an errand of mercy were the last thing he contemplated. Nearly always the subject of these orations was some public wrong or error which should receive, although in all likelihood it did not, immediate attention.
Always of a reverent, although not exactly religious, turn of mind, he took considerable interest in religious ministration, though he steadily and persistently refused, in his later years, to go to church. He had St. James's formula to quote in self-defense, which insists that "Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." Often, when pressed too close, he would deliver this with kindly violence. One of the most touching anecdotes representative of this was related to me by his daughter, who said:
"Mr. Kent, a poor man of our town, was sick for months previous to his death, and my father used to go often, sometimes daily, to visit him. He would spend perhaps a few minutes, perhaps an hour, with him, singing, praying, and ministering to his spiritual wants. The pastor of the church living so far away and coming only once a month, this duty devolved upon some one, and my father did his share, and always felt more than repaid for the time spent by the gratitude shown by the many poor people he aided in this way.
"Mr. Kent's favorite song, for instance, was 'On Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand.' This he would have my father sing, and his clear voice could often be heard in the latter's small house, and seemed to impart strength to the sick man.
"Upon one occasion, I remember, Mr. Kent expressed a desire to hear a certain song. My father was not very familiar with it but, anxious to grant his request, came home and asked me if I would get a friend of mine and go and sing the song for him.
"We entered the sick-room, he leading us by the hand, for we were children at the time. Mr. Kent's face at once brightened, and father said to him:
"'Mr. Kent, I told you this morning that I couldn't sing the song you asked for, but these girls know it, and have come to sing it for you.'
"Then, waving his hand gently toward us, he said:
"We did so, and when we had finished he knelt and offered a prayer, not for the poor man's recovery but that he might put his trust in the Lord and meet death without fear. I have never been more deeply impressed nor felt more confident in the presence of death, for the man died soon after, soothed into perfect peace."
On another occasion he was sitting with some friends in front of the courthouse in his town, talking and sunning himself, when a neighbor came running up in great excitement, calling:
"Mr. White, Mr. White, come, right quick. Mrs. Sadler wants you."
He explained that the woman in question was dying, and, being afraid she would strangle in her last moments, had asked the bystanders to run for him, her old acquaintance, in the efficacy of whose prayers she had great faith. The old patriarch was without a coat at the time, but, unmindful of that, hastened after.
"Mr. White," exclaimed the sick woman excitedly upon seeing him, "I want you to pray that I won't strangle. I'm not afraid to die, but I don't want to die that way. I want you to offer a prayer for me that I may be saved from that. I'm so afraid."
Seeing by the woman's manner that she was very much overwrought, he used all his art to soothe her.
"Have no fear, Mrs. Sadler, now," he exclaimed solemnly. "You won't strangle. I will ask the Lord for you, and this evil will not come upon you. You need not have any fear."
"Kneel down, you," he commanded, turning upon the assembled neighbors and relatives who had followed or had been there before him, while he pushed back his white hair from his forehead. "Let us now pray that this good woman here be allowed to pass away in peace." And even with the rustle of kneeling that accompanied his words he lifted up his coatless arms and began to pray.
Through his magnificent phraseology, no doubt, as well as his profound faith, he succeeded in inducing a feeling of peace and quiet in all his hearers, the sick woman included, who, listening, sank into a restful stupor, from which all agony of mind had apparently disappeared. Then when the physical atmosphere of the room had been thus reorganized, he ceased and retired to the yard in front of the house, where on a bench under a shade tree he seated himself to wipe his moist brow and recover his composure. In a few moments a slight commotion in the sick-room denoted that the end had come. Several neighbors came out, and one said, "Well, it is all over, Mr. White. She is dead."
"Yes," he replied with great assurance. "She didn't strangle, did she?"
"No," said the other, "the Lord granted her request."
"I knew He would," he replied in his customary loud and confident tone. "Prayer is always answered."
Then, after viewing the dead woman and making additional comments, he was off, as placid as though nothing had occurred.
I happened to hear of this some time after, and one day, while sitting with him on his front porch, said, "Mr. White, do you really believe that the Lord directly answered your prayer in that instance?"
"Answered!" he almost shouted defiantly and yet with a kind of human tenderness that one could never mistake. "Of course He answered! Why wouldn't He—a faithful old servant like that? To be sure, He answered."
"Might it not have been merely the change of atmosphere which your voice and strength introduced? The quality of your own thoughts goes for something in such matters. Mind acts on mind."
"Certainly," he said, in a manner as agreeable as if it had always been a doctrine with him. "I know that. But, after all, what is that—my mind, your mind, the sound of voices? It's all the Lord anyhow, whatever you think."
How could one gainsay such a religionist as that?
The poor, the blind, the insane, and sufferers of all sorts, as I have said before, were always objects of his keenest sympathies. Evidence of it flashed out at the most unexpected moments—loud, rough exclamations, which, however, always contained a note so tender and suggestive as to defy translation. Thus, while we were sitting on his front porch one day and hotly discussing politics to while away a dull afternoon, there came down the street, past his home, a queer, ragged, half-demented individual, who gazed about in an aimless sort of way, peering queerly over fences, looking idly down the road, staring strangely overhead into the blue. It was apparent, in a moment, that the man was crazy, some demented creature, harmless enough, however, to be allowed abroad and so save the county the expense of caring for him. The old man broke a sentence short in order to point and shake his head emotionally.