We were quite satisfied in the introduction given us in our sojourn as a book clerk with Mr. Herford. That is to say, our early education was received largely from the pages of St. Nicholas Magazine; and when grown to man’s estate and brought to mingle with the great we might easily have suffered a sentimental disappointment in Mr. Herford. But no, he is as mad as a March hare. He never, we should say, has any idea where he is. An absolutely blank face. Mind far, far away. Doesn’t act as though he had any mind. A smallish, clean-shaven man, light sack suit, somewhat crumpled. A fine shock of greyish-hair. Cane hooked over crooked arm. List to starboard, like a postman. Approaches directly toward us. We prepare to render our service. Perceives something in his path (us) just in time to avert a collision, swerves to one side. Takes an oblique tack. But speaks (always particular to avoid seeming to slight us) in a very friendly fashion. Though gives you the impression that he thinks you are some one else. A pleasant, unaffected man to talk to. Somewhat dazed, however, in effect. Curious manner of speech, of which evidently he is unconscious, partly native English accent, partly temperamental idiosyncrasy. A very simple eccentric, what in the eighteenth century was called “an original.” Reads popular novels.
It was given to us to see the launching throes of a nouveau novelist. We noticed day after day a well-built young man come in to gaze at the fiction table, a sturdy, spirited, comely chap. A fine snap to his eye we particularly noticed, and admired. He seemed to derive much satisfaction from this occupation and to be in an excellent frame of mind. And then, it struck us, he grew of troubled mien. He asked us one day how “Predestined” was selling. So we had the psychology of the situation. He asked, on another, if we had sold a copy of “Predestined” yet. A few days following he inquired, “How long does it take before a book gets started?” Dejected was his mien. It took “Predestined” some time. Then it went very well. We sold a joyous-looking Stephen French Whitman, an embodiment of gusto–there was a positive crackle to his fine black eyes–a pile of books concerning themselves with Europe, and did not see him again for some time. Then he flashed upon us a handsome new moustache.
Our acquaintance with Mrs. Wharton was–merely formal. “Oh, very pleased,” exclaimed an equiline lady, patrician unmistakable, of aristocratic features which we recognised from the portraits of magazines, “I’ll take this.” She had in her hand a copy of the then quite new pocket edition “Poems” of George Meredith. She was very fashionably, strikingly, gowned, somewhat conspicuously; a large pattern in the figure of the cloth. She carried a little dog. There was about her something, difficult to denote, brilliant and hard in effect, like a polished stone. And we felt the rarefied atmosphere of a wealthy, highly cultivated, rather haughty society. “Charge to Edward Wharton,” she said, very nicely, bending over us as we wrote “Lenox, Mass.” She pronounced it not Massachusetts, but Mass, as is not infrequent in the East. “Thank you,” she said; she swept from us. Our regard was won to this incarnation of distinction by the pleasant humanity of her manners, her very gracious “Good morning” to the elevator man as she left.
“Dicky” Davis we always called him behind his back. And such he looks. A man of “strapping” physique, younger in a general effect than probably he is; immense chest and shoulders, great “meaty” back; constructed like (we picture) those gladiators Borrow lyrically acclaims the “noble bruisers of old England”; complexion, (to employ perhaps an excessive stylistic restraint) not pale. A heavy stick. A fondness for stocks. Very becoming. A vitality with an aversion, apparently, to wearing an overcoat in the coldest weather; deeming this probably an appurtenance of the invalid. Funny style of trowsers as if made for legs about a foot longer. In the reign of “high waters”!