Mr. Martin's Disappointments

THE circumstances of a first meeting so color long years of acquaintanceship, that, should these circumstances be comic in their nature, the intercourse which follows partakes much of the grotesque. Thus, perhaps, it is, that the misfortunes of Edward Martin, apart from the whimsical demeanor of the man himself, provoke in my memory a smile rather than a sigh.

Some years ago, journeying on foot through Northern Connecticut, it became necessary for me to stop overnight at the quiet inn of Deacon S—.

Sharon I had visited, fair as Berkshire, but less an old story ; I had lingered about the twin lakes of Salisbury; I had carried away many sweet memories of Warramaug and its mountain; and I now found myself in the neighborhood of Gramley Bridge, eager for fresh water, clean towels, and the plenty of a country tea-table, —not averse to strawberry short-cake, or the snowy delights of cottage-cheese.

It was rapidly growing dark, when, as I hurried on toward my cheerful welcome, a bend in the road brought me in sight of a figure that filled me with curiosity and amazement.

“ Was it a man ?

A devil infernal ?

An angel supernal ? ”

Was it were-wolf spectral, or bear aboriginal ? It lived and moved, and, as I cautiously neared the spot, I seemed to recognize a human being in the singular form,—stooping, squatting, and groping before me.

The man, for such it proved, was performing most wondrous gymnastics upon the ground, —smelling here, smelling there, too agile to be tipsy, too silent to be mad. I had no desire to be alone in a lonely road at nightfall with a maniac, and I was not sorry when my nearer approach resolved these strange phenomena into a well-dressed pedestrian on all-fours in the middle of a dusty highway.

He rose as I approached, and I smiled to see that the spectacles astride his handsome nose were minus one lens. He seemed half blind and wholly bewildered. I looked at once for the lost glass, and there it lay shining at me from the very spot where he had been so industriously peering. He laughed grimly as I handed it to him, fitted his treasure into its wonted rim, took out his watch, and with a low chuckle said, —

“ Twenty-five minutes is a long time to search for a bit of such small circumfe-rence. Thank you. Do you go to the Deacon’s ? ”

“ Yes.”

“ So do I.”

We walked on together in silence, till we reached our journey’s end, — I too tired, he too reserved, too preoccupied, or too shy, to speak again; but when, at last, we were seated with our cigars on the Deacon’s door-step, he turned suddenly to me and asked, —

“ Are you fond of the country ?”

“ Why, yes ! What else is there ? ” I answered, laughing.

“ Ah, you are an artist! ”

“ I hope to be one.”

“ It’s a bad business,” said he, testily, — “ a very bad business. If I were you, I would give it up.”

“ Have you ever tried it ? ”

“ Tried it ? ” he ejaculated, kicking the gravel-walk,—“ yes, and everything else, I believe. If I thought it would do you any good, I would give you the benefit of my experience; but you’d only laugh, and make a good story of it to your wife.”

“ Alas ! I have no such incumbrance.”

“ The worse for you, if you have genius and the modesty of genius. A true artist, who seeks to interpret Nature in its purest and most exquisite relations, who penetrates the deepest temples of the woods and the silent sanctuaries of the mountains, must be a true, pure, and good man. He must be a happy man, — happy in a sweet and natural way. A man whose life is passed in a daily delight that gently stirs without feverish excitement will be tender and most lovely to women. He ought to marry.”

“ Did you ever write poetry ? ” I asked.

“ I began to compose when I was six years old. I wrote a poem on the sea, commencing, —

’ O thou earthly sea,
Every person thinks of thee,—
The sailor, and the busy bee,
And the Chinese drinking tea! ’

I thought it very fine. I have written many things since then, and they seemed good to me at the time. I would not venture to say how they struck others.”

He smiled pleasantly.

“ Do not be frightened by the shadow of a possible wife from unfolding jour history,” said I. “ Chance has thrown us together; befriend me with your experience.”

“ Take warning, then, if need be.

“ In college I was thought ’ a very able fellow,’ one ’ who held the pen of a ready writer’; and I graduated as vain of my supposed talents as a young miss of her first conquest.

“My earliest literary essay was in a new magazine, which, as it was just rising into notice, would be, I imagined, greatly assisted by my condescension. It was a charity, indeed, to give my support to this fledgling, and I sent to it a long article, entitled, ’ The Cultivated, as Moving and Educational Powers.’ My manuscripts were returned, with this quiet bit of advice : — ’ Before “ X. Y. Z.” institutes any other reforms, we would advise him to reperuse his English Grammar.’ Far from having a salutary effeet, this rebuff only rankled in my soul. I determined to revenge myself on the paltry malignant who dared to despise my efforts. I therefore wrote a slashing criticism for one of the evening papers, demolishing (as I thought) the delinquent periodical, and denouncing its whole corps of writers as frivolous and almost illiterate. My satire was returned, being too personal for publication.

“ Just at this time I chanced to fall in love with Miss Ellen Wilson, now Mrs. Martin. Fancying my passion unrequited, I poured forth my feelings in ten melancholy stanzas, beginning, —

’ Oh! what avails it, if the spring be bright? '

These verses were very morbid and dreary, but they were published in the ’ Tri-Weekly Tribune,’ and ’ Hope revived again.’

“ The drama I next deemed worthy of my attention, and wrote a play, the plot of which I thought quite new and original. A large fortune is left to my hero, who forthwith becomes enamored of a fair damsel; but, fearful lest the beloved object should worship his money more than his merits, he disguises himself in a wig and blue spectacles, becomes tutor to her brother, and wins her affections while playing pedagogue. On her acknowledging her attachment, he flings his disguises into the sea, and, in the wildness of his joy at being adored for his profundity in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, Spanish, German, Mathematics, Natural Science, and Civil Engineering, folds his loved one in his arms, and springs into the surf, where both are drowned.

“ This, you see, was quite new.”

“ Quite,” I replied, laughing.

“ I published it at my own expense, and I must say I have yet to receive the first remittance for this truly original work.

“ During the next season, I met with Hans Andersen’s inimitable ‘ Märchen,’ and, immediately setting myself to work, I wrote ‘Uncle Job’s Legacies,’ a series of children’s tales, full, as I fondly fancied, of poetry, pleasantry, and information. I sent them to ‘The Juvenile Weekly,’ then published in the city. They were accepted with a profusion of thanks; and in a few days I called, by request, at the office, expecting large compensation for services so eagerly received.

“ I went up a dirty staircase, into a mean, slovenly back-office, where a small, uncleanly man sat tipped back in his chair, picking his teeth. He seemed the personification of nonchalance, impudence, and conceit. As I entered, he looked up with a lazy insolence, which, had I been a woman, would have brought a hot flush of indignation to my face, and, on my mentioning my name, he rose and extended a very dirty hand.

“ ‘ Glad to see you, Sir, — hope you ’ll continue your contributions,—Uncle Job, — good idea, Sir,— love the little ones ? So do we, Sir, — work very hard for them, — don’t pay at all, — poor business, — pure charity, — that’s all.’

“ ‘ But you don’t mean to say,’ I exclaimed, ‘that your contributors are expected to work from charity ? ’

“ ‘ Glad to pay them, if we could, but we can’t afford it, — more contributions than we can use, — best authors in the country write for us, — pure love for the little ones, I assure you.’

“ ‘ Will you give me my manuscripts ? ' I said. ‘ I do not vouchsafe to bestow my time and thoughts for nothing. If you do not pay, I can offer them to others who do.’

“ ‘ You won’t find a child’s paper in the United States that pays,’ he growled. ‘ We don’t care for contributions. Me and my partner writes most of the articles ourselves.’

“ ‘ Will you give me my manuscripts ? ’ I said again, anxious to put an end to the interview, and disgusted with the fellow’s falsehood.

“ ‘ Hallo ! Mortimer, do you know where them are ? ’

“ ‘ Sorry I can't oblige you,’ said a fat man, dirtier and greasier than the first, emerging from an inner den; ‘ they ’re gone to press.’

“ ‘ If you tell me any more lies,’ cried I, becoming furious, ‘I shall take measures that you will not at all relish. If you will not give me my manuscripts, I shall take them’; and, suiting the action to the word, I snatched them from a shelf, where they lay conspicuous, and carried them off without further parley.

“ This cured me for a while of all literary ambition. But the unquiet spirit within me would not rest, and during the following summer I wrote a sentimental tale, full of aspirations, large adjectives, and soft epithets. It was accepted by a well-known monthly, then supposed to be in the height of its prosperity. This was a grain of comfort, and I looked forward confidently to a long future of remuneration and renown, when a letter of regret arrived from the fair editress, returning my story, and explaining, that, being unable to meet her engagements, the magazine had been sold to pay her debts.

“This was bad; but my story was my own, and I accordingly despatched it to ‘ The Salmagundian,’ a periodical of the highest reputation. There it was published, praised, and further contributions requested. Several weeks passed away. I indited a poem, entitled, ’ Past and Future, or, Golden and Leaden Hours,℉ This also appeared in print, and my thirst for fame was beginning to be satisfied, when a polite note reached me from ‘ The Salmagundian ’ office, begging for another tale, and offering to pay me in back numbers of the magazine. I wrote no more.”

“ Art beguiled you then, perhaps ? ”

“ Alas, yes, the siren! I had taken lessons from a very clever colorist, and was thoroughly imbued with his enthusiasm. ‘ I, too, am a painter,’ I took for my motto ; and, hiring a small studio in — Street, I bought a large canvas, on which I sketched out a picture which cost me much money, more time, and many anxious thoughts.

“ It represented the interior of a church, at the dim end of which a marriage was being solemnized. In the foreground, a group of ten people, in anomalous costumes, was gathered round a youth supposed to be a rejected and despairing lover, who had fallen on the ground in a swoon. It was very affecting, I thought, — it would be very effective. Were she to see it, she would be stung with remorse, — she would behold the probable effects of her present indifference, — she would relent.

“ No one knew of my painting. I would keep it a profound secret, till it was a complete and glorious success. So I worked on in my quiet studio, draping before a cheval-glass for my women, attitudinizing and agonizing for my men, until the last touches were on, the varnish dry, and it was all ready for the Spring Exhibition. Then came doubts and speculations. Would it be accepted ? Was it good, after all ? Would Ellen like it ? How would it seem among so many others ? Should I take her to look at it ? Should I tell her it was mine ? Who would buy it ?

“ I had hired my studio under an assumed name, and under an assumed name sent my picture to the Academy. Now, when I went to see it, I found it, by some strange chance, hung next to a beautiful portrait by Huntington. The juxtaposition gave me a new idea. I saw at once what a villanous daub mine was, and went away oppressed with shame and a new-found modesty. Some time after this I strolled again into the Exhibition, in the hope of finding Miss Wilson ; as I entered the vestibule, I met her coming out.

“‘ Oh, Mr. Martin ! ’ she exclaimed, ‘ I am just going away, but I must turn hack, and show you the funniest picture ! So theatrical ! So distorted !

“ ‘ I Does it hang next to a lady in a purple shawl, by Huntington ?’

“‘ Yes. Of course I might have known you would appreciate it, you are such a good critic of pictures. Is n’t it the very worst specimen of art you ever saw ? ’

“ Can you imagine my feelings ?”

“ I think I can.”

“ This was not all, however. That afternoon I went to my now forsaken studio, previous to taking my departure from it forever. I was carefully packing my materials, when I heard a knock at the door. I opened it, and an elderly, shrewd-looking man walked into the room.

“ ‘ Are you T. Markham Worthington ?’ he asked.

“ ‘ I am a friend of his.’

“ ‘ Authorized to sell his picture in the Academy, Number — ? '

“ ‘ Yes.’

‘ How much does he ask for it ? '

“ ‘ How much are you willing to give ? ’

“ ‘ Not more than twenty-five dollars.’

“ ‘ That will do. Where shall it he sent ? ’

“ He paid the money, wrote the address, and, bowing, left the studio. Twenty-five dollars just paid for the frame. Who had bought my picture ? I looked at the card : —


Yankee Pie Depot,

‘126 - Street.’ ”

“ Did you ever paint again ? ”

“ Once only. I made a portrait of my sister-in-law, and sent it to her in a gorgeous frame. I happened to go into her sitting-room, one morning, when she was out, and found my picture hanging with its face to the wall. I turned it round. Directly across the mouth was pasted a white label, on which I saw neatly printed in India-ink, — ‘ Queen of the Deplorables.’ I took it home with me, and hung it in my library as a lesson to me for all future time.

“ So,” said Martin, throwing away the stump of his third cigar, “ you have heard my experience. May you profit by it! I am now in the pork-packing business, and make a handsome income for my wife and two children. To-morrow I go to New York, to bring them into these wilds for change of air. And now, good night.”